Enfilade

Exhibition | Hogarth: Cruelty and Humor

Posted in exhibitions, films, lectures (to attend) by Editor on May 6, 2019

Press release for the exhibition:

Hogarth: Cruelty and Humor
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 24 May — 22 September 2019

Curated by Jennifer Tonkovich

William Hogarth, Gin Street, 1750–51, red chalk, some graphite, on paper, incised with stylus (New York: The Morgan Library & Museum, purchased by Pierpont Morgan in 1909).

The Morgan Library & Museum announces a new exhibition of satirical drawings and prints by renowned artist William Hogarth (1697–1764). Best known for his humorous political commentary, Hogarth’s work engaged a broad audience and agitated for legislative and social change. His intricate drawings and richly anecdotal scenes depict the ills and injustices of eighteenth-century urban life, exploring the connections between violence, crime, alcohol abuse, and cruelty to animals. He hoped his graphic work would amuse, shock, and ultimately edify his audience. Hogarth: Cruelty and Humor tells the story of Hogarth’s iconic images and the social realities of life in Georgian London that inspired him to advocate for reform through popular works of art. It is the first show at the Morgan devoted to this artist, whose style was so influential in British art that the word ‘Hogarthian’ remains a recognizable way of describing works of satire.

Featuring over twenty works, the show investigates Hogarth’s creative process and examines his embrace of humor, highlighting the Morgan’s exceptional cache of preparatory drawings for his two most acclaimed print series from 1751: Beer Street and Gin Lane, and The Stages of Cruelty. Hogarth’s prints documenting the dangerous impact of the gin craze, Beer Street and Gin Lane, generated popular support for the 1751 Gin Act and other reform efforts, while the Stages of Cruelty reflects the growing anxiety about episodes of human brutality in London. Included in the show are the only other two known studies related to the Stages of Cruelty; these works reveal the complex generative process of the series. Also on view are drawings from The Royal Collection Trust that represent Hogarth’s first and last forays into satire.

Fiercely independent, Hogarth was driven to innovate in order to elevate the status of British art, creating new genres and modes of expression in his painting, printmaking, and drawing. His compositions are rich with narrative detail. It was his adoption of such ‘low’ subjects, no less than his use of humor, that led him to struggle to be taken seriously throughout his career.

“William Hogarth’s works should be enjoyed for their artistry, humor, and activism, and as such hold a special place in our drawings and prints collection,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the museum. “The artist was a keen observer of his city, and his visual anecdotes were a brilliant means of communicating to a wider public.”

“Looking closely at Hogarth’s passion for socially relevant subjects reveals the challenges he faced in being known as a satirical artist,” said Jennifer Tonkovich, Eugene and Clare Thaw Curator of Drawings and Prints. “I think our current appetite for satire allows us to appreciate Hogarth’s tremendous intelligence and ambition in constructing narratives that he hoped would change the world around him.”

S E L E C T E D  P R O G R A M M I N G

Laurel Peterson, Crafting Cruelty: Hogarth’s Innovative Drawing Methods
Tuesday, June 18, noon

William Hogarth achieved substantial artistic and commercial success in his lifetime, both as a printmaker and as a painter. Despite his enduring fame, Hogarth’s drawings are today little known and rarely studied. Laurel Peterson, Moore Curatorial Fellow in the Department of Drawings and Prints, will offer new insights into Hogarth’s practice as a draftsman, shedding light on the evolution of his drawing style and the role played by drawings in the development of his most iconic satirical prints. Co-sponsored by the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation.

Hogarth’s Gin Craze Festival
Friday, July 19, 6:00pm

Join us for an evening of revelry inspired by the Gin Craze of the 1750s! Enjoy gin-inspired bites and craft cocktails at Morgan Café and curatorial gallery talks at 6:00 and 7:30pm in the exhibition Hogarth: Cruelty and Humor. At 7:00pm we will screen the 1946 film Bedlam, which was inspired by William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress.

Bedlam, directed by Mark Robson (1946, 79 minutes)
Friday, July 19, 7:00pm

In 1760s London, an actress campaigns to reform a horrific hospital for the insane, but instead finds herself committed to the institution by the corrupt head of the asylum. Starring Boris Karloff and Anna Lee, Bedlam was the last in a series of stylish horror films produced by Val Lewton for RKO Radio Pictures.

Meredith Gamer, Hogarth: Cruelty and Crime
Thursday, 12 September, 6:30pm

Meredith Gamer, Assistant Professor of Art History at Columbia University, will explore the origins, evolution, and multi-layered meanings of William Hogarth’s The Four Stages of Cruelty (1751). A tale of neglect and abuse, murder and punishment, the series was—by eighteenth-century standards—one of Hogarth’s ‘lowest’ works. Paradoxically, however, it is also one of his most ambitious, for it aims to combat some of our most basic human frailties through the medium of art. Co-sponsored by the Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation.