William Hogarth

Hogarth is synonymous with the Eighteenth Century, but he was, in fact, born in the Seventeenth. Therefore, in honour of his birth, which occurred on this day the 10th of November, 1697, we shall have a look at some of his most popular and influential works of art.

NPG 5717. William Hogarth, attributed to Jean André Rouquet. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Hogarth was a satirist and an artist, who dealt mainly with cartoons and sketches. The most famous were his vivid illustrations of Beer Street and Gin Lane.

Gin Lane by William Hogarth. Image: Wikipedia.

Gin had been introduced into England mainly following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, in which the Dutch Stadtholder William III became King of England. Now, gin was already being sold in the Dutch Republic, mainly for medicinal purposes (it is made from Juniper berries and is said to be good for the stomach). Unfortunately, from my research, gin – which is very strong and alcoholic, was nevertheless sold in pints, and often at a very cheap price. The result? The poor were very likely to become addicted to the cheap stupefying liquor which in turn caused everything else in their lives to go to pot. From the image above, a mother – out of her head – is getting a pinch of snuff, and in doing so, criminally neglects her child, who is seen plummeting to his death. There are cadaverous men, a man hanging in the rafters in the top right, all is ruin and despair, as you can see from the crumbling buildings and the men fighting with a dog over a bone. This image is in contrast to Hogarth’s Beer Street, which suggests that beer drinking is less destructive a drink.

Image: © Trustees of the British Museum

Hogarth’s other famous works include “A Rake’s Progress,” which you can see fully here.



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