Silk Squalor and Scandal - Hogarth's London at Guildford House Gallery

By Culture24 Staff | 22 May 2009
an etching of an ornate crowded room full of poeple in eighteenth century dress

(Above) The Rake's Progress: The Rake's Levee

Silk Squalor and Scandal – Hogarth's London, Guildford House Gallery, Guildford, until June 20 2009

Guildford House Gallery is inviting art lovers who like a good narrative seam in their artworks to visit their current exhibition of Hogarth prints, depicting scenes from early 18th century London including the famous Rake’s Progress series.

Showing the stark realities of life in London in the 1700s, including scandalous and corrupt elements, the exhibition tells the story of Hogarth and his famous series using engravings on loan from the Cuming Museum and Southwark Art Collection and costumes from the Marion May Collection.

an etching of a crowded room with various desperate characters in frock coats

The Rake's Progress Plate 3: The Rake in the Tavern

During his lifetime Hogarth was famous for his oil paintings and portraiture, but today it is his engraved works depicting London life, such as Southwark Fair and Gin Lane that have endured to give many of us a popular image of the depravity of Regency London.

The exhibition includes more than 20 of these engraved works and reveals the secrets of the characters, events and locations pictured. It also examines Hogarth's remarkable career and the range of his work – from polite society portraits or "conversation pieces" to London street scenes depicting the seedy side of 18th century life.

an etching of a street scene with people in eighteenth century dress

(Above) The Rake's Progress: The Rake Arrested for Debts

In his series, A Rakes Progress, he tells the cautionary tale of Tom Rakewell, who has inherited a sizeable sum of money from his dead father and promptly goes about squandering it.

Hogarth's depictions of Rakewell's descent into gambling, drinking and other vices leading into debt remain one of the most potent morality tales and vibrant images of decadence and vice ever produced in British art.

The exhibition also includes examples from another less famous Hogarthian series, Four Times of the Day: 1736-1738. Based on paintings completed in 1736, they are humorous depictions of life on the busy streets of London in the 1730s, cleverly using the progression of time throughout the day to illustrate the changing moods of the city.

an etching of a busy room with upturned tables and other signs of disarray

The Rake's Progress Plate 6: The Rake in the Gaming House

At the time London was the largest city in the world and the centre of an emerging empire, and these pictures offer a vivid insight into the interactions between rich and poor people in the early 1700s.

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