The Graham Children (1742) by William Hogarth

So many period paintings of children depict them as mini adults or with serious demeanour. In contrast, this wonderful portrait of the four Graham children by William Hogarth, allow a glimpse of the real personalities of these young sitters.

Their father was the Royal Apothecary to George II. Henrietta, the eldest, holds out cherries to the youngest brother Thomas. Sadly, he had already died by the time the painting was finished. Anna Maria is dancing to the organ played by her brother Richard Robert. The poor goldfinch has been startled by the unwanted attentions of the cat.

Somehow, as viewers, we feel as if we have stumbled into a moment in time and that these childhoods will be all too fleeting. Although it is only Henrietta that looks out of the canvas at us , we have a sense that all the children know we are watching them as they play together. What are they trying to tell us?


Sadly, Hogarth and his wife never had children of their own but they did foster foundling children.


The Graham Children (1742) by William Hogarth (1697-1764), oil on canvas. Room 34, NG4756, The National Gallery