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William Hogarth, 1697–1764

Study of a Female Nude

Materials & Techniques:
Graphite, black chalk, and white chalk on medium, moderately textured, brown laid paper
Sheet: 10 1/4 × 17 1/8 inches (26 × 43.5 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
female | figure study | nude | woman
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
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IIIF Manifest:

The representation of the human figure was the central task of the history painter, and study from the life model was the principal component of artistic training in most academies. The private academies of England differed from their state-run counterparts on the Continent, however, by providing female models in life classes. By 1720 Louis Chéron and John Vanderbank began a drawing school in London, and this graphite and chalk drawing was almost certainly made from a life model at this drawing school, perhaps in preparation for a now lost history painting of Danae for the Duke of Ancaster.

Gallery label for Connections (Yale Center for British Art, 2011-05-26 - 2011-09-11)
Cat. 147 [1977.14.4272] was almost certainly drawn by Hogarth in the early 1720s during his membership of the St. Martin's Lane Academy founded by Louis Chéron and John Vanderbank. And its use of crosshatching for modeling is highly characteristic of Chéron's drawing style. Life-drawing was an important component of the curriculum at the Academy, which from its inception hired female models "to make it the more inviting to subscribers." In the Analysis of Beauty Hogarth noted that "the human frame hath more of its parts composed of serpentine-lines than any other object in nature," and wrote at length of the importance of studying the human body:
The skin…thus tenderly embracing and gently comforting itself to the varied shapes of every one the outward muscles of the body, soften'd underneath by the fat…is evidently a shell-like surface…form'd with the utmost delicacy in nature; and therefore the most proper subject of the study of every one, who desires to imitate the works of nature, as a master should do, or to judge of the performances of others as a real connoisseur ought.
Although Hogarth was actively involved in the education of artists at his own St. Martin's lane Academy during the 1730s and 1740s, he came to doubt the value of such drawing exercises. He later recorded that he had begun "copying in the usual way, and had learnt by practice to do it with tolerable exactness" until "it occur'd to me that there were many disadvantages attended going on so well continually copying Prints and Pictures…may in even drawing after the life at academys…it is possible to know no more of the original when the drawing is finish'd than before it was begun." Hogarth regarded a highly-developed visual memory as a more valuable tool for the artist than drawing from life, and his adherence to this precept is indicated by the rarity of such studies by him.

Gillian Forrester

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 174 cat .no. 147

William Hunter and the Anatomy of the Modern Museum (Yale Center for British Art, 2019-02-14 - 2019-05-20) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Connections (Yale Center for British Art, 2011-05-26 - 2011-09-11) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

David Bindman, Hogarth, Thames & Hudson, p. 123, no. 87, , NJ18.H67 B56 2021 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Sir Lawrence Gowing, Hogarth, with a biographical essay by Ronald Paulson , Tate Publishing, London, December 2, 1971-February 6, 1972, p. 40, no. 92, NJ18 H67 G68 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, pp. 174-5, no. 147, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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