John Hamilton Mortimer

I. The Hero Decides to Seek his Fortune

exhibited 1775

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 765 x 622 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1948
Reference
N05837

Display caption

Attracted by the growing Romantic fashion for giving outlaws and anti-establishment figures heroic stature, Mortimer produced two complementary sets of narrative paintings entitled 'The Progress of Vice' (1774, now lost) and this, 'The Progress of Virtue' (1775). They continue the tradition of painted moral tales begun by Hogarth in the early 1730s, but lack his biting satire on contemporary society. By dealing with 'idealized' vices and virtues embodied in generalized heroic characters, they conform to the canons of history painting. Their simple moralizing tone and elevation of domestic virtues, however, is more akin to the sentimental genre of Greuze in France, and to early nineteenth century historical painting.

Gallery label, August 2004

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