Paul Hogarth

Monday 07 January 2002 01:00

Arthur Paul Hoggarth (Paul Hogarth), artist: born Kendal, Cumberland 4 October 1917; ARA 1974, RA 1984; RDI 1979; RE 1988; OBE 1989; four times married (one son); died Cirencester, Gloucestershire 27 December 2001.

The distinctive style of the artist Paul Hogarth is instantly recognisable: a strong line, a broad watercolour wash and a flamboyant signature. His best-known work is probably the series of book covers he did for the novels of Graham Greene published by Penguin in the 1980s. They are characteristically simple colour drawings which manage to capture a mood – whether of menace or anxiety or general seediness and invariably set in an exotic location – true to the writer's work.

Arthur Paul Hoggarth was born in Kendal in 1917, descended from a long line of Westmorland hill farmers. There was also a distant connection with the artist William Hogarth (whose father was also born Hoggarth). Educated at St Agnes School at Rusholme in Manchester, in 1933 he won a scholarship to Manchester College of Art but he received little encouragement from his parents and the lock on his bedroom door was removed to stop him from disappearing upstairs to study. They wished that he would find himself a proper job. To his father, a butcher, the College of Art was "that bloody art school"' and even in 1956, when Hogarth organised an exhibition entitled "Looking at People", he refused to enter the gallery. It was only after his mother's death that Hogarth discovered that she at least had amassed a complete collection of his books, all carefully wrapped in plastic film.

According to his close friend Ronald Searle Hogarth was "the original angry young man". Fired by the radical left-wing politics he acquired as a student, he lied about his age and went off to join the Republicans in Spain. War inevitably proved to be less than glorious and the Communists soon returned him to England when they discovered that he was still only 17.

Back home he resumed his studies at St Martin's College of Art in London but he remained politically active. As a member of the Communist Party, however, he was not allowed to join the armed forces and instead he worked for a period at the Ministry of Propaganda.

In the years after the Second World War, Communist governments were eager to show off their power to rebuild, and welcomed artists who could record their successes. Through his contacts in the Party Hogarth was invited to travel to Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. With Ronald Searle, Laurence Scarfe and Percy Horton he went to record the building of a railway in the wilds of eastern Bosnia.

Contemporaries, pent-up in London, were understandably envious of his opportunities. In 1954, while working at the Central School of Art, Hogarth was summoned to the office of the Principal, William Johnstone. "Either," said Johnstone in a not unfriendly manner, "ye arrange for me to be invited to China, or indeed any of these damned countries, or I'll have to ask ye to resign." It was the end of Hogarth's career at the Central but he was to be the first British artist to set foot in China after the war and wrote and illustrated Looking at China (1953) as a record of the visit.

Hogarth became a tireless traveller and his creative partnerships with writers further extended his wanderings. His collaborations included travels in South Africa with Doris Lessing, in Ireland and New York with Brendan Behan, and America with Stephen Spender, and Corfu with Lawrence Durrell. His came to know Majorca on account of Robert Graves and subsequently bought a house there himself – as well as producing a portfolio of lithographs entitled Deyá (1972) with handwritten poems by Graves.

It was perhaps inevitable that he should come into collaboration with Graham Greene, a creative artist whose thirst for travel was perhaps even greater than his own. Hogarth's travels in "Greeneland" – that hinterland of the author's imagination – took him to over 20 countries. In his 1997 autobiography Drawing on Life Hogarth described many of the writers he encountered in the predatory clientele of literary haunts in London and New York, and in particular he recalled Greene's "ice-blue eyes and tormented face".

The illustrations he provided for John Betjeman's In Praise of Churches (1996) reflected a kindlier vision, however, and demonstrated Hogarth's sensitivity to architecture and a particularly English love of eccentricity and idiosyncrasy.

Hogarth named as influences Degas and the artist illustrators of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood such as Ford Madox Brown, Sir John Millais and Arthur Boyd Houghton (on whom he produced a monograph in 1982). From 1946 to 1948 he worked as an illustrator and graphic designer for Shell International and then as art editor for various periodicals before eventually becoming a freelance painter and illustrator. He said he chose to be an illustrator because it was fun:

I developed a very strong sense of composition and design and the ability to extract elements of significance. Editing and exaggeration are also important. The problem is how to make an image compelling, even in an aesthetic way – not just to sit down and make a record.

His many illustrated books ranged from Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1954) and Malcolm Muggeridge's London à la Mode (1966) to Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon (1978); as well as a number of books written by himself. He also did original work in watercolours and conté crayon and as a printmaker.

It is unusual for a commercial artist to become a Royal Academician but Hogarth's brilliant draughtsmanship led to his election in 1984. He was particularly supportive of the RA and strongly defended the controversial "Sensation" exhibition on the principle that, although he might not like the work himself, the academy had every right to show and encourage it. He was also a Member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers and was appointed OBE in 1989.

Physically Hogarth was of medium height, solidly built, bald and bearded. He had an open, jovial character which reflected the strength and lack of sentimentality in his work. He was also quite determined. When asked by another RA how he had managed to be so lucky to have had such a full working life, he replied forcefully that luck had nothing to do with it.

For some years Hogarth rented Hidcote Manor near Chipping Campden from the National Trust. The gardens at Hidcote are some of the loveliest in England and were designed early last century by Major Lawrence Johnston, an American friend of Henry James. Many an American tourist knocked at the door and expected to be shown around by "Henry James's friend" in the form of Hogarth. He had gently to explain explain that if he were their man he would be very ancient indeed.

Recently Hogarth and his wife Diana had moved to Cirencester, where he died suddenly at home from a heart attack.

Simon Fenwick

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