Hogarth: Cruelty and Humor

Portrait of Hogarth

William Hogarth (1697–1764), one of the most acclaimed British artists, created iconic works that capture urban life in Georgian London. Fiercely independent, Hogarth was driven to innovate and developed new genres and modes of expression in his painting, printmaking, and drawing in an effort to elevate the status of British art. Hogarth: Cruelty and Humor 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 Stages of Cruelty. Bringing together the extant drawings related to these series, the exhibition explores Hogarth’s working method and examines his use of satire in agitating for social reform. The story of the creation, dissemination, and impact of Hogarth’s images reveals an artist who addressed the ills and injustices of life in a modern metropolis.

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

William Hogarth (1697–1764)
ca. 1735
Yale Center for British Art
Paul Mellon Collection, B1981.25.360


Colin B. Bailey:
Hello. I'm Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan Library & Museum, and I'm delighted to welcome you to Hogarth: Cruelty and Humor.

William Hogarth is one of Britain's most iconic artists known for his witty and innovative satires. This exhibition focuses on the Morgan's six proprietary drawings for two of his most revered print series, Beer Street, and Gin Lane, and The Four Stages of Cruelty. These rarely exhibited drawings shed light on Hogarth's creative process and on his role in agitating for social reform. These sheets were part of the extraordinary collection of old master drawings formed by the artist and dealer, Charles Fairfax Murray, and purchased by J. Pierpont Morgan in 1909.

The exhibition also includes loans of drawings from the Royal Collection and the Yale Center for British Art selected to complement the Morgan's work and to deepen our understanding of Hogarth as a draftsman.

As you move through the gallery, look for the audio symbols to discover commentary from curators in our Department of Drawings and Prints who provide further insights into the historical and artistic context of these fascinating drawings.

Thank you for joining us at the Morgan. We hope you enjoy your visit.