Painting The Graham Children by William Hogarth is animated by a surprising vivacity: it looks as if the children have posed for just a moment, before returning to their play. Moreover, the cat ogling the canary in the cage really looks as if it can't wait to leap on its prey. The impression of vitality is also conveyed by the composition, which lacks a central focal point, so that our attention shifts continually, following the studied exchange of glances between one figure and another, and even directed out of the painting at us.
The lively subjects of the painting are the children of the pharmacist of Chelsea Hospital, and the eldest of them was to take his father's place. The painting shows affinities with van Dyck's portrait of The Children of Charles I (Portrait of the three eldest children of charles I, The five eldest children of charles I) (Royal Collection, Windsor) where a more tranquil atmosphere holds sway, but one that is completely different from the stiffness of other contemporary portraits of the children of the royal family.
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