William Hogarth: Proceed with Caution
Blanton Museum of Art
October 6, 2012 through January 13, 2013
This fall, the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin presents a selection of prints by William Hogarth, the celebrated English satirist. William Hogarth: Proceed with Caution, on view October 6, 2012 – January 13, 2013, brings together a selection of the artist’s most important eighteenth-century series including Marriage à la Mode, A Rake’s Progress, and Industry and Idleness, among others. In this exceptional display representing the breadth and dynamism of the artist’s oeuvre, the exhibition imparts a broad understanding of Hogarth’s overarching messages.
William Hogarth (1697-1764) stood at the center of a rich tradition of political and social satire in the first half of eighteenth-century England. Inspired by a period of economic turmoil and social unrest, Hogarth’s exquisitely detailed etchings and engravings function as cautionary tales for his fellow Londoners. His multi-layered, visual narratives unravel stories of virtue and vice; they highlight integrity and merit as a means toward tremendous honor and riches, and emphasize corruption as a path leading to dreadful consequences and disgrace. Hogarth’s critique of contemporary society provides a glimpse into the complexities of life in eighteenth-century London – complexities that strangely mirror those in present-day.
“Hogarth’s message is as valid today as it was over 250 years ago. Today’s society strives to instill the same ethical principles that Hogarth examined in his works,” suggests Catherine Zinser, Blanton curatorial associate and curator of the exhibition. “This exhibition presents an extraordinary opportunity to see a selection of the artist’s major series, each intended to evoke several layers of society.”
In a fine example of symbolic storytelling, Marriage à la Mode, Hogarth challenges the notion that the wealthy lead virtuous lives. A six-plate progression allows viewers to witness the disintegration of an arranged marriage as a young couple indulges in numerous vices, from gambling and drinking to extramarital affairs. When the husband catches his wife in the midst of an affair, he tries to defend his honor only to die at the hand of his wife’s lover who later hangs for the crime. In the series’ final scene, the widow poisons herself in a fit of grief. Evidence that disease has passed to the next generation is seen in the blemishes of the couple’s young daughter, now an orphan. Hogarth hired French engravers to craft the prints on view in the exhibition, modeled after the artist’s painting series of the same name. Similar accounts of woe are illustrated in Hogarth’s The Four Stages of Cruelty and A Rake’s Progress, also on view.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Blanton will host a Perspectives gallery talk with Blanton Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings, and European Paintings, Francesca Consagra, Curator of Exhibitions, Colette Crossman, and Catherine Zinser on Thursday, October 11 at 12:30 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.