The darkly satirical series of William Hogarth (1697-1764) have an enduring appeal today. Cutting through social conventions, they present with wit and humour the immorality and vice that Hogarth perceived in all classes of society.
Hogarth: Place and Progress will unite all of the paintings and engravings in Hogarth's series for the first time. The Museum’s own Rake’s Progress and An Election will be joined by Marriage A-la-Mode from the National Gallery, the Four Times of Day from the National Trust and a private collection, as well as the three surviving paintings of The Happy Marriage from Tate and the Royal Cornwall Museum. The exhibition will also include engraved series lent by Andrew Edmunds prints such as The Four Stages of Cruelty, Industry and Idleness and Gin Lane and Beer Street.
Hogarth's narratives present a satirical take on the idea of 'progress'. The principal characters flout conventional morality and so progress not towards spiritual enlightenment but to poverty, madness and death. London settings, still identifiable today, play a key role in these cautionary tales: in A Rake’s Progress, the Rake's initial progression from the mercantile City of London to an extravagant West End mansion spirals to a brothel in Covent Garden, then ultimately to insanity and death in Bedlam madhouse, as a consequence of his dissolute lifestyle.
Displayed across the backdrop of Sir John Soane’s Museum, the exhibition will demonstrate how Hogarth’s ‘Modern Moral Subjects’ married the idea of progress with the moral geography of London, in a dynamic and evolving way throughout his own progress as an artist.