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Photograph by Taylor Dabney
Oct 04, 2019
throughJul 05, 2020

Satire & Social Criticism: Prints by William Hogarth from the Collection

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This exhibition features 40 works by British satirist William Hogarth (1697-1764), including his most famous series, The Harlot's Progress and Industry and Idleness. Hogarth’s prints were immensely popular among the general population of his day.

Hogarth began his career as a silver engraver's apprentice tasked with copying allegorical figures and decorative motifs from pattern books onto silver, which fostered a deep resentment for the rigid imitation of the aristocratic art of the Old Masters for the rest of his life. Instead, the artist preferred to work directly from life. His scenes' cityscapes can often be identified as a specific London neighborhood and many of his characters bear the likeness of London public figures. This would have given viewers of the prints the impression that the scenes could have been lifted directly from their everyday lives, making his social critique especially pungent. To twenty-first-century viewers, each print is chock-full of details to decipher. This exhibition aids the viewer by bringing Hogarth's references and allusions to light by using interactive technology.

Organized by the University of Richmond Museum, the exhibition was curated by Richard Waller, Executive Director, University Museums, and Kate Wiley, ’20, art history major, 2019 Harnett Summer Research Fellow, and 2019-2020 Curatorial Assistant, University Museums. The exhibition is made possible in part with funds from the Louis S. Booth Arts Fund.

Curator's Gallery Talk


“Easter Eggs: Hogarth’s Hidden References," presented by Kate Wiley, ’20, art history major, 2019 Harnett Summer Research Fellow, and 2019-2020 curatorial assistant, University Museums, and co-curator of the exhibition

Friday, Oct. 4, 2 to 2:45 p.m.

Harnett Museum of Art, Modlin Center for the Arts

Free, no tickets required

About the Artist

William Hogarth was born in London to Anne Gibbons and Richard Hogarth. His father, an unsuccessful scholar, was held in debtor's prison between 1708-1712 while his family lived in squalor. At the time, the law allowed a creditor to contradictorily sentence a debtor to indefinite imprisonment, which kept prisoners from working to repay their debts. Although Hogarth never explicitly references his father's imprisonment in his artwork, his family's powerlessness in the face of an unjust system certainly has ties to his subject matter, which frequently confronts failures of Great Britain's institutions.