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Hogarth's early success as a painter was based on his exceptionally lively small-scale 'conversation pieces', or informal group portraits, which became fashionable in the 1730s. They reflected the move away from the solemn formality of the previous generation and attempted to show the sitters in easy, natural poses, in a domestic setting, engaged in everyday activities like conversation or drinking tea. The main subject here is the wealthy city magnate William Strode, seated at table with his new wife Lady Anne Cecil, his relative Col. Strode, and his tutor Dr Arthur Smyth, later Archbishop of Dublin. The paintings on the wall are reminders of their recent tour of Italy. On the floor is the tea caddy.

August 2004