David Garrick as Richard III

WAG 634


David Garrick (1717 - 1779) was the greatest British actor of the mid 18th century. He became famous from 1743 after his outstanding performance as Shakespeare's Richard III. He is shown here in the famous tent scene before the Battle of Bosworth, haunted by the ghosts of all those he had murdered. Garrick's body is contorted into a 'serpentine' line - a stretched 'S' shape that Hogarth considered distinctly beautiful. He later made this shape the basis of his theoretical treatise 'The Analysis of Beauty' published in 1753. This first major Shakespearian picture is not just a portrait but also a grand history painting in which Hogarth emphasises England's importance. He believed that an incident from English rather than ancient history could be used to teach a moral lesson.