Hogarth: Cruelty and Humor

May 24 through September 22, 2019

The satirical scenes of the celebrated English artist William Hogarth (1697–1764) are iconic representations of eighteenth-century urban life at a time of great socio-economic disparity. An academic outsider and an activist, Hogarth was driven to innovate, creating new genres and modes of expression in his painting, printmaking, and drawing in his effort to elevate the status of British art. This exhibition will investigate the ways the artist used humor, satire, and political commentary to engage a broad audience and agitate for legislation and political goals.

The exhibition features the Morgan’s exceptional cache of six sheets preparatory for two of Hogarth’s most revered print series, both issued in February 1751: Beer Street and Gin Lane and The Four Stages of Cruelty. The story of Hogarth’s images reveal an artist who addressed the ills and injustices of life in a modern metropolis, exploring the connections between violence, crime, alcohol abuse, and cruelty to animals in ways that would amuse, occasionally shock, and edify his audience.

Online Exhibition
Listen to the audio guide narrated by Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan Library & Museum, Jennifer Tonkovich, Eugene and Clare Thaw Curator, and Laurel Peterson, Moore Curatorial Fellow.

Hogarth: Cruelty and Humor is made possible with generous support from Joshua W. Sommer and Alyce Williams Toonk, with assistance from the Alex Gordon Fund for Exhibitions and Raphael and Jane Bernstein.

William Hogarth (1697–1764), Fourth Stage of Cruelty (Reward of Cruelty), 1750-51, red chalk; incised with stylus and squared for transfer in graphite; verso rubbed with red chalk for transfer. Purchased by Pierpont Morgan (1837-1913) in 1909. The Morgan Library & Museum, III, 32e.

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Selected images