Hogarth Moralizing English Art in the 1700's

Form:  Hogarth was more of a printmaker than a painter.  He used extensively the process of intaglio and engraving processes discussed in your book.  This is important because his work is rather cartoon like and seems to anticipate what  modern comic strips and political cartoons will become in the 19th through 21st centuries.  Hogarth's work is realistic but it is still stylized in a cartoon like manner.  His portraits of everyday people are more caricatures than attempts to capture a realistic or photographic realism.

Context:  William Hogarth is a lot like your mother, he wants you to feel guilty all the time. Hogarth started out as a painter who commented on what he perceived as the decay of English society and the realized that he could make more money by selling his images in the form of prints.  The creation of prints of Hogarth's images was a revolution for him.  Instead of creating one painting that could be sold only once and had to be sold for a large sum of money, he was actually able to make more money by creating prints and selling them for much cheaper prices.  He was even able to pre-sell his images by creating subscriptions for the images.  Therefore he was also able to reach a much wider audience and this, combined with his cartoonish and satirical images, made his works wildly successful.  According to the Brittanica,

The engravings were aimed at a wide public, and their tremendous success immediately established Hogarth's financial and artistic independence. He was henceforth free, unlike most of his colleagues, to follow his own creative inclinations. To safeguard his livelihood from unscrupulously pirated editions, he fought to obtain legislation protecting artist's copyright and held back the eight-part Rake's Progress until a law of that nature, known as the Hogarth Act, was passed in 1735.
Hogarth establishes the Copyright Law system in which it could protect an artist intellectual property. It would protect the artist's books, art, or other own ideas. He aided in the proposal to protect his prints with the Copyright Act, due to many unauthorized copies made of his paintings. It was passed by the British Parliament in 1735.

Much of Hogarth's work is influenced by literature, popular culture, and current events.  A lot of his imagery has evolved from the novels of the day, theatre, commedia as well as opera.  He was actually very close friends with a famous actor named David Garrick.

An killer site all about Hogarth with timelines, biographies and all the images you could ever want: http://www.geocities.com/Paris/Gallery/3737/

Beer Street and Gin Lane-(diptych) two images
In early 1730's there was an epidemic of alcoholic consumption. Gin was mass produced and started to replace beer as the main alcoholic drink of choice. The portrait shows everybody selling their goods in order to get more gin. It shows also that the KillMan Distiller, the undertaker, and the Pawnshop are doing very good in their business.

Early 1700's an epidemic. People had to drink distilled spirits because the water was contaminated. A watery thin or "near beer" was the primary beverage. When gin was introduced Hogarth saw this as a corrupting drug. Gin is equivalent to Hogarth as heroine or crack is to ours.


William Hogarth 
Before and After c1736

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, 1732-1806 
The Meeting, from Love of the Shepherds
1771-73 o/c 10'x7' New York, Frick Museum

Iconography:  This diptych depicts a typical scene in which the morals of good English society are being eroded.  Here is what happens when young woman who read the wrong kinds of books. 

In this image a young maiden has allowed a young suitor into her bedroom who paws at her in "Before."  The night table spills over and in the bedside drawer a copy of "Moll Flanders" a rather racy fictional biography.  We know that according to Hogarth, it is her fault because she has allowed him in the bedroom and has also inflamed his desire by leaving her underwear hanging from the curtains of her bedstead.

Symbols of her impending deflowering are in ripe abundance throughout.  Highlighted by a shaft of light in the background of "Before" we see an image of a cupid about to ignite a toy rocket.  The shaft of light has moved, indicating the passage of time in "After" and we see highlighted by the shaft of light we see an image of a cupid snickering over the same spent toy rocket.

The mirror on the nigh table in "Before," a symbol of introspection and of vanity is broken in the second scene like her chastity. 

The dog barking in (Before) is trying to defend his master's virtue/honor but the same dog takes a nap in "After" indicating his master's honor cannot be defended anymore

The end results of this unattractive and rather unromantically depicted tryst is further emphasized by the disarray of his wig, the ripped curtains and idiotic look of the young disheveled man who hastily pulls up his pants while the girls begs for a promise of marriage? 

Compare this scene to Fragonard's The Meeting, from Love of the Shepherds which describes of a very similar romantic encounter.


Hogarth:  Genre Scenes and Moralizing Art in the 1700's

William Hogarth
Beer Street and 
Gin Lane c1730-
(diptych) two images



William Hogarth 
Before and After c1736



Honore Fragonard
The Meeting, 
from Love of the Shepherds
o/c  10'x7' 
New York,Frick  French, 
French Rococo


The Harlot's Progress 1731