Nathaniel HoneSketch for 'The Conjuror' 1775

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Artwork details

Nathaniel Hone (1718‑1784)
Sketch for 'The Conjuror'
Date 1775
MediumOil paint on wood
Dimensionssupport: 575 x 819 mm frame: 765 x 940 x 70 mm
Acquisition Purchased 1967
On display at Tate Britain
Room: 1760


This is the oil sketch for Hone's satirical painting The Pictorial Conjuror, displaying the Whole Art of Optical Deception (Dublin, The National Gallery of Ireland), a picture that caused one of the greatest art scandals of the British eighteenth-century art world. Nathaniel Hone submitted the finished picture to the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1775. The Academy's Hanging Committee rejected it on the grounds that it was offensive to one of its female members, Angelica Kauffman (1741-1807). However, the main object of Hone's satire was not Kauffman but the Academy's president, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92).

The present oil sketch is painted on a wooden panel and is signed and dated 1775. As in the finished painting, it shows a bearded conjuror pointing his wand towards a fire. It is kindled by an assortment of old-master prints from which a framed oil painting emerges. Leaning across his knee, arms folded, is a young smiling girl. In the background, at the extreme top left, a group of naked figures cavort before St Paul's Cathedral, waving palettes and paintbrushes before them. The conjuror is intended to represent Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder President of the Royal Academy… (read more)