Paul Hogarth OBE RA was one of the most distinguished illustrators and graphic artists of the 20th Century. Here we take a closer look at the extraordinary life and work of Paul Hogarth and showcase some of the rarer prints by this remarkable and much loved artist.
His images are known to millions through his collaboration with celebrated writers including Doris Lessing, Brendan Behan, Graham Greene, Robert Graves and Lawrence Durrell. Allied to his unique artistic talent was a passion for travel and literature and an inquiring, adventurous spirit which led to a remarkable life. In his work, topography, illustration and reportage achieve the status of fine art, a fact reflected in his membership of the Royal Academy.
PAUL HOGARTH – THE EARLY YEARS
‘For those of my generation who came from the villages, country towns and provincial cities of Britain, the Arts were the castle on the hill. My school friends disappeared into the maw of office and factory, unable to decide what they really wanted to do in life. Through a combination of luck and not so little perseverance, I avoided that fate.’
Paul Hogarth was born in Kendal in 1917 and spent his early years near Manchester. As a child he was always drawing at the kitchen table and illustrated his father’s wartime adventures amongst other projects. However, despite his artistic talent his parents were not keen for him to become an artist but Paul persevered with his dream and took himself off to museums and art galleries to learn as much as he could about the subject. Eventually he was encouraged by a teacher to try for a scholarship to the Manchester School of Art and he was accepted in 1933. This marked the beginning of a new era for Paul Hogarth as he launched himself into art school life and the more radical political views of the time.
Following the rise in Fascism in Southern Europe, Manchester became a hive of political activity. Paul Hogarth became a member of the Artists International Association (AIA), an organisation founded in 1933 to oppose Fascism. He became increasingly inspired by left wing views and his political activity completely took over his life at the time, much to the dismay of his fiercely Conservative parents. As a result, Paul Hogarth neglected his studies and eventually left art school completely at the beginning of his final year.
With the fire of youth in his belly he joined the International Brigade of the Communist Party and, unbeknown to his parents, travelled to Spain as volunteer in the shadow the war. However, the situation soon became increasingly dangerous so Paul Hogarth was repatriated along with his fellow young compatriots.
Back in London Paul Hogarth picked up the threads of his art studies, drawing and attending life classes at St Martin’s School of Art whilst supporting himself with a number of casual, unrewarding jobs. Paul Hogarth’s art career was further interrupted when war finally broke out and he received his call-up papers. Seven short months in the army resulted in him being classed as ‘unsuitable’ and he found himself once again at a crossroads. He joined a graphic design studio as an illustrator designing propaganda for the Home Front. This was where is career as an illustrator finally started to take shape.
EARLY TRAVELS AS AN ARTIST
After the war ended, Paul Hogarth soon became disenchanted with the restrictions of commercial illustration and its impossible deadlines and favoured an altogether freer lifestyle. Through his contacts in the Communist party he started to receive invitations to make working trips abroad to record the rebuilding of war-torn Europe. With a small group of fellow artists including Ronald Searle and Lawrence Scarfe, Paul Hogarth travelled throughout Europe, visiting shattered towns and cities and recording the devastation in pencil and pen.
Once back in London, the publication of his drawings from his recent travels provided Paul Hogarth with an income which, although small, enabled him to become independent. This was the beginning of Paul Hogarth’s career as an artist/traveller for which he is best known. He began to travel extensively behind the Iron Curtain, to Poland, Eastern Germany, former Czechoslovakia (now the Czeck Republic), China, Romania, Bulgaria and the Soviet Republic. Many of his drawings were exhibited and sold along the way to fund his travels but his background in illustration and his love of literature inspired Paul Hogarth to explore book publication as a means of recording his journeys. This became a major focus of his work and over the years Paul Hogarth published in excess of 20 books during his lifetime in collaboration with authors including Sir Hugh Casson (Drawing Architcture, a Creative Approach 1979), Lawrence Durrell (The Mediterranean Shore 1988), Graham Greene (Graham Greene Country 1986).
THE MIDDLE YEARS
After his early travels and magazine journalism in the late 1940’s, Paul Hogarth turned to teaching to support himself, first at the Guildford School of Art, then the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London where he worked alongside Mervyn Peake, Laurence Scarfe, and Keith Vaughan. In 1959 Paul Hogarth joined the staff of the Cambridge School of Art and later the Royal College of Art in London in 1962. Paul Hogarth was by this time a recognised illustrator and regularly contributed drawings to newspapers, magazines and book publishers. During his lifetime Paul Hogarth illustrated over 35 books and embellished numerous colour supplements and monthly publications including the ‘Illustrated London News’.
ADVENTURES WITH WRITERS
Beginning in the mid 1950’s and between teaching commitments, Paul Hogarth embarked on his first collaborations with some of the leading literary figures of the time, including Doris Lessing (Going Home 1957), Brendan Behan (Brendan Behan’s Island 1962) and Robert Graves (Majorca Observed 1965). This strand of his career was to continue into the 1980’s and provided more opportunity for him to travel the world; travels which eventually enabled Paul Hogarth to be much less doctrinaire and develop a more fluid and personal style of drawing.
A trip to America in 1962 with Brendan Behan provided Paul Hogarth with further inspiration for his drawings and was a turning point in his artistic career. In New York a much less romantic style evolved. Until now, Paul Hogarth’s drawings were mainly pencil and conté but here he resorted to ink, giving more strength and vigour to his line. To Paul Hogarth, New York expressed, as nothing else did, before or after, the vital, energetic and competitive pulse of America; ‘It was as if I was giving birth to a new Hogarth’. It was at this time that his career as a portraitist reached its climax with a commission from the US magazine ‘Fortune’ to depict the construction of a transcontinental oil pipeline. As part of this project Paul Hogarth was asked to paint a series of portraits of captains of industry which took him to places he would never otherwise have imagined visiting. His travels in America and the commissions he secured along the way were to have a lasting impression on Paul Hogarth and he remained in the country working successfully as an illustrator until the early 1970s.
THE LATER YEARS
After a lifetime of travelling Paul Hogarth eventually bought a house in Majorca in 1969 which he loved and which became his home. However, in 1974 he felt a yearning to return to England. Paul Hogarth had at last received a measure of recognition by some, if not all his peers, and he no longer felt such an outsider. He became an elected member of the Royal Academy in 1974 and returned to work part time as a senior tutor at the Royal College of Art. Re-inventing himself as an Englishman, Paul Hogarth embraced his new life and began to focus his attention on the English landscape and architecture. After nearly half a century of globetrotting, Paul Hogarth had come home and rediscovered the ‘haunting beauty’ of England.