A MASTERCLASS IN DEBAUCHERY; No One Depicted Louche Behaviour like William Hogarth.As a Major Exhibition of His Art Opens, We Examine One of His Finest Works

Daily Mail (London), February 9, 2007 | Go to article overview

A MASTERCLASS IN DEBAUCHERY; No One Depicted Louche Behaviour like William Hogarth.As a Major Exhibition of His Art Opens, We Examine One of His Finest Works


Byline: CHRISTOPHER HUDSON

PROSTITUTES, rakes, alcoholics, yokels, thieves and murderers - William Hogarth depicted England in all its squalor. Now, a major new exhibition at London's Tate Britain of this very English artist's work reveals not only his astonishing ability but also the brilliance - and brutality - with which he dissected society.

Perhaps his most extraordinary accomplishment is that his paintings and engravings still have such resonance today. That is why the names he gave them - Gin Lane, The Rake's Progress and A Harlot's Progress - have passed into the English vernacular. Hogarth has binge-drinkers spilling out into the streets, swaying and chanting. There are beggars, muggers and men vomiting.

Pickpockets help themselves while single mothers struggle in vain to cope with their children.

This could be London today. Two hundred and fifty years have passed since he engraved his unforgettable scenes of the capital in the reign of George II - yet his binge-drinkers, his yobs and thieves, his beggars and harlots are still with us.

Hogarth was born in 1697 in the City of London, just off Smithfield meat market, near the infamous Newgate Prison. When he was ten, his father, a schoolteacher, went into debt and for two years was confined next to the grim, stinking Fleet Prison.

This humiliating experience left Hogarth with a lasting aversion to authority. He refused to wear a wig and, although one of the finest painters of his day, turned his back on fashionable Court painting and instead produced a series of scenes of domestic life in Georgian London that have never been equalled for their realism and satirical energy.

About 5ft tall in his socks, Hogarth was snubnosed and scar-faced, fizzing with high-spirited likes, as well as dislikes which particularly included the French. At 16, he entered the lowest rung of his profession as a silver engraver. Then, in 1720, he put all his savings into enrolling in a new painting academy on St Martin's Lane, meanwhile setting up as an engraver.

Hogarth started with an engraving of the South Sea Bubble, in which vast fortunes of paper money were made and spent by greedy speculators. The engraving showed the folly of the speculators, riding a wheel of fortune with a goat sitting above them as the body of Fortune was hacked into pieces by a devil and thrown to a greedy crowd.

The Bubble caused rents in London to grow by 45 times, rather like property speculation in London today, and a new word was coined - 'millionaire'.

The Bubble burst in a flurry of bankruptcies, and greed and corruption were exposed for all to see.

His sympathies were with the underdog, but in his own life Hogarth had an eye to the main chance.

The academy he attended was run by Sir James Thornhill, whose daughter Hogarth was to marry - utterly against the wishes of Sir James, who watched in dismay as Hogarth threw away his talents on grubby engravings instead of making real money by painting the rich.

Hogarth persevered, painting and engraving satires on the world around him.

This was where his genius lay, in capturing the throbbing life of London's streets and boudoirs, gaming dens and pleasure gardens, in scenes so vivid that you can smell the sewers over which his powdered, perfumed gentlefolk step daintily in their silver-buckled shoes.

You can hear the sounds, too. In his print of The Enraged Musician, the poor violinist at the window blocks his ears against the drum banging, the horn blowing, the women shouting, the baby squalling, the dustman clattering, the church bells pealing and the girl waving a rattle. In the one square inch of peace on the canvas is a tiny garden: but a little boy is urinating over that.

In Hogarth's pictures, the spectator is part of the crowd, caught up in the busyness of everyone around him.

It was in the 1730s that Hogarth decided to tell moral stories through a series of paintings, which he would sell and turn into engravings for the popular market. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A MASTERCLASS IN DEBAUCHERY; No One Depicted Louche Behaviour like William Hogarth.As a Major Exhibition of His Art Opens, We Examine One of His Finest Works
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.