Enfilade

Exhibition | Travesty in the 18th Century: William Hogarth

Posted in exhibitions by internjmb on December 14, 2017

William Hogarth, The Fiver Orders of Periwigs, detail, 1761
(Honolulu Museum of Art, Gift of Andrew Adams Collection)

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Now on view at the Honolulu Museum of Art 

Travesty in the 18th Century: William Hogarth’s Modern Moral Subjects
Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu, 14 September 2017 — 11 March 2018 

The Honolulu Museum of Art’s Works on Paper Gallery comes alive with the work of the hilarious William Hogarth (1697–1764). One of the eighteenth century’s most influential artists, Hogarth is best known for his complex, satirical, and uncannily prescient images, through which he exposed humanity’s foibles by lampooning the conventions, lifestyles, and scandals of contemporary England. Inspired by the popular and plot-driven literary forms of the day—the comic opera, the bourgeois tragedy, and the serialized novel—Hogarth approached his subjects in the spirit (as he put it) of a “dramatic writer,” inventing a new genre called the “modern moral subject,” in which humor and tragedy merged with the purpose of teaching a lesson.

The exhibition focuses on a selection of prints from the museum’s collection, including The Rake’s Progress, a serialized group of eight images that mock the pitfalls of decadence by tracing the fortunes of the fictitious gambler Tom Rakewell; Beer Street and Gin Lane, which warn against the consequences of alcoholism by mordantly blaming gin for the ruin of a working-class neighborhood; and The Five Orders of Periwigs, which chart the elaborate and often absurd semiotics of modish men’s hairstyles.

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