Hogarth: Place and Progress was a major William Hogarth retrospective taking place at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in autumn of 2019. Charles Holland Architects were commissioned by the museum to design the exhibition which includes a number of works - including Marriage A-la-Mode and Industry and Idleness - that have been loaned to the museum for the first time. These works were displayed alongside Soane's own collection of Hogarth paintings including The Rake's Progress.
The principal challenge was to design a method for displaying Hogarth’s works that allowed them to be experienced collectively as well as via an episodic sequence throughout the museum. Conservation issues around the works and the museum’s historic fabric were of paramount importance.
Our design takes its cue from historic methods of exhibiting Hogarth's work as well as the objects and furniture present in the museum’s interior. The starting point was an historic etching from 1884 showing The Rake’s Progress displayed on an easel-like frame in the South Drawing Room. From this drawing we developed a series of zig-zagging timber screens that populate a number of different rooms within the museum. These allow the works to be seen in series whilst respecting the museum’s Grade I listed interior.
The hardwood-framed screens are intended to be read as items of furniture rather than traditional gallery walls. The upper sections incorporate coloured plaster panels on which the paintings are displayed, while the lower sections include mirrored panels that reflect aspects of Soane’s interior. The combination of mirrors, voids and the zig-zagging form of the frames creates illusions and reflections that play subtle perceptual games.
The colours, dimensions and orientation of the screens change according to each room. Alongside the screens, CHA have designed a vitrine for the display of the Soane Museum’s own Hogarth Volume in the Foyle Space; this object relates visually and materially to the screens to make a family of new display elements.
Image Credit: Gareth Gardner
Hogarth: Place and Progress