The New Criterion
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April 2007

Exhibition note

by Christie Davies

Tate Britain, London.
February 7, 2007-April 29, 2007

It is clear from the major new exhibition in London’s Tate Britain that the artist William Hogarth was seriously politically incorrect. His famous satirical series of pictures and prints such as A Harlot’s Progress (1732), A Rake’s Progress (1734), Industry and Idleness (1747), and The Four Stages of Cruelty (1751) are all unflinchingly moral tales of individuals who chose wicked modes of conduct—betrayal, profligacy, idleness, and cruelty that led them inexorably to imprisonment and execution. In one case, the earthly penalty even went beyond death itself, as we see his corpse being handed over to the anatomists after a public hanging for murder and gruesomely dissected. We are left in no doubt but that each of them is to blame for his or her own fate. Hogarth’s is a world of real justice, not social justice, and a direct ...

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Christie Daviess most recent book is Jokes and Targets (Indiana)
more from this author

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 25 April 2007, on page 60
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