Nation’s favourite painting


A Rake’s Progress III: The Orgy by William Hogarth

Britain’s Greatest Painting

BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme in association with the National Gallery are asking the public to vote for Britain’s favourite painting. The hundreds of paintings nominated have now been whittled down to a final shortlist, drawn up by Today’s panel of experts (Jonathan Yeo, Deborah Bull and Martin Gayford) each backed by a celebrity advocate.

The ten paintings in the frame are:
The Arnolfini Marriage by Jan van Eyck
The Fighting Temeraire by Joseph Mallor William Turner
The Hay Wain by John Constable
A Rake’s Progress III: The Orgy by William Hogarth
The Baptism of Christ by Piero della Francesca
A Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Edouard Manet
Sunflowers by Vincent van Gogh
The Last of England by Maddox Brown
The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Lock by Sir Henry Raeburn
Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy by David Hockney

Comment on the Today programme:

Hogarth is a peerless 18th C painter and the reason he is peerless is because he is so honest and so truthful about human life. This Rake’s Progress is a satire of what happens to this chap, Tom Rakewell, and the various scrapes he gets in to. We see him here in an orgy where he is being fleeced by a prostitute who is reaching her hand into his bosum and stealthily passing his watch, which is set at 3am so you can see how late it is, to an accomplice behind him. Meanwhile another girl is about to take her clothes off and dance naked. All the human characters you can imagine turn up in Hogarth’s work, every human frailty, every human vice is depicted here and above all satirised here and the reason I want everyone to vote for Hogarth is because he so represents this English tradition of satire and irreverence. If all countries had the same ability to make fun of people’s frailties and foibles then the world would frankly be a lot less terrifying, because, in a way, what you see here in the Rake’s Progress is the essential concommitant to the enlightenment. How about that eh?!

The polls close on the 4th of September, with the winning painting announced on the Today programme on the 5th, so get your skates on, get out there, vote early and vote often here till closing date!

See comment on the result

Licensing Laws

In The Daily Telegraph today

We British will never learn that a hangover is neither big nor clever

Not so long ago, I found myself trapped in downtown Carlisle on a Friday night just before closing time, and believe me, there are better places to be. My train had gone. There was nothing for it. I headed to the pub, and was stunned by the noise, the crowd, the smoke and the astonishing quantities of alcohol that were being necked by the denizens of Carlisle.

I found myself a pint of bitter and a quiet-ish corner, but pretty soon a woman was sitting opposite me in a state of some dishevelment. She was extremely good-looking and had a tattoo of a butterfly on her bosom, but she was pretty far gone.

Continue reading Licensing Laws

The British dream: we must all speak the same language

Not so long ago, I was standing at the back of an Islington school hall in an ecstasy of paternal pride. The seven-year-old was playing Queen Victoria, spangled with plastic diadems, and though she had only one line, she belted it out in a particularly regal way. She had to pin a medal on the chests of two other kids – it was some kind of educational pageant about the Crimean War – and then she said: “Well done, Florence Nightingale and Mary Seacole! Without you we could not have won the war!”

When the applause had died down, I turned to my neighbour and chuckled sardonically. Hur hur, I said. Mary Seacole, eh? My daughter had briefed me that this “Mary Seacole” was a black nurse who was “just as important as Florence Nightingale”, and I wanted to make it clear to my fellow parents that I was not taken in.

Continue reading The British dream: we must all speak the same language