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Hogarth: Vice, Satire and Welfare

William Hogarth provides a unique perspective of Georgian London; his early life shaped his work and view on the urban landscape of a rapidly expanding and changing city. His father’s time in the Fleet Prison, scarred him but also spurred him on to produce some fabulous and challenging art. Hogarth’s city scenes are dynamic and chaotic and are an intimate connection to the past on many levels. We contrast his art with Canaletto’s sanitized view of London and examine what we can learn from his unique depiction of high and low culture and human nature.


London was Hogarth’s stage; he interweaves real people and places into his pictures. He is best known for his moral, satirical “series” of prints for the masses, notably “A Harlot’s Progress” and “Four Times a Day” which examine London’s dark underbelly, addressing prostitution, adultery and drunken debauchery. These were storytelling at its best; the forerunners of cartoons and picture storyboards in movie-making.

He trailblazed linking art to legislation; driving the first copyright laws and using “Gin Lane” as a potent anti-alcohol poster for the Gin Act of 1751. 

Hogarth was also a talented painter with a strong social conscience, whose biblical art still graces institutions like Bart’s Hospital and the Foundling Museum. his stunning portraits include those of his dear friends, actor David Garrick and patroness Mary Edwards. 

Hogarth’s vision of London, mirrored his own identity as a roving satirist and gentleman artist and it is this unique mix which provides us with such a rich legacy of insight into Georgian life.  

David Garrick and his Wife.jpg
Self-portrait_by_William_Hogarth 1758.jpg
Gin Lane.jpg
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