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Saturday Art: William Hogarth

 

One panel of Marriage a la Mode by Hogarth

One panel of Marriage a la Mode by Hogarth

(Picture courtesy of Cesar Ojeda at flickr.com.)
The artist known for social commentary was self-taught and used his art works to effect the world around him with humor.    His series that the National Gallery of Art in London has displayed tells a story, the wry rendering of the conventions of marriage of the day in British life.

William Hogarth (/ˈhɡɑrθ/; 10 November 1697 – 26 October 1764) was an English painter,printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art.

His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called “modern moral subjects”. Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as “Hogarthian”.[1]

(snip)

In 1731 Hogarth completed the earliest of his series of moral works, a body of work that led to significant recognition. The collection of six scenes was entitled A Harlot’s Progress and appeared first as paintings (now lost) before being published as engravings. A Harlot’s Progress depicts the fate of a country girl who begins prostituting—the six scenes are chronological, starting with a meeting with a bawd and ending with a funeral ceremony that follows the character’s death from venereal disease.[12]

The inaugural series was an immediate success and was followed in 1735 by the sequel A Rake’s Progress. The second instalment consisted of eight pictures that depicted the reckless life of Tom Rakewell, the son of a rich merchant, who spends all of his money on luxurious living, services from prostitutes, and gambling—the character’s life ultimately ends in Bethlem Royal Hospital. The original paintings of A Harlot’s Progress were destroyed in the fire at Fonthill House in 1755, while A Rake’s Progress is displayed in the gallery room at Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, UK.[13]

When the success of A Harlot’s Progress and A Rake’s Progress resulted in numerous pirated reproductions by unscrupulous printsellers, Hogarth lobbied in parliament for greater legal control over the reproduction of his and other artists’ work. The result was the Engravers’ Copyright Act(known as ‘Hogarth’s Act’), which became law on 25 June 1735 and was the first copyright law to deal with visual works as well as the first to recognize the authorial rights of an individual artist.[14]

 In 1743–1745, Hogarth painted the six pictures of Marriage à-la-mode (National Gallery, London), a pointed skewering of upper-class 18th-century society. This moralistic warning shows the miserable tragedy of an ill-considered marriage for money. This is regarded by many as his finest project and may be among his best-planned story serials.

While the life around him struck him as odd and full of empty convention, Hogarth rendered it up to us as full of the humorous and made his viewers see what they were guilty of.

(Picture courtesy of Cesar Ojeda at flickr.com.)

Wry portrayal of marriage by Wiliam Hogarth

Wry portrayal of marriage by Wiliam Hogarth

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.