The term ‘modern moral subject’ was coined by Hogarth himself to depict his kind of art. It mainly consists of single or multiple images usually in sequence comically depicting a moral dilemma . Hogarth made a reputable living and for which he is predominantly remembered. These “Pictur’d Morals” demonstrate a tale by sensationalising a series of events that Hogarth would compose as a painting (much like “author’s do”, he later wrote) then vend the ensuing prints by subscription.
Perhaps it his greatest novelty and the most acknowledged legacy is his production of a narrative series in which he aimed to reanimate the handle on artistic subject and audience appreciation, he aptly called as such Hogarth painted a picture that revealed rich people as hypocritical, conceited, fraudulent and immoral beings while depicting the poor as people solely engaged in sex, grub and gin. His graphically represented imagery of, gaming prostitution, slaughter, even animal cruelty and torture, betrayal, drugs and other objectionable deeds common during his time.
One thing about Hogarth is that even as he criticises people’s behaviour he provides comic relief to viewers of his pictures by creating humorous looking characters and finds humour in behaviours he finds censorious. But, it is also noteworthy to realise that even as he seems to find the lighter side of things, one might notice that essentially all of his series ends in tragedy, a very sad point especially when one following the series realise that the first stages will show a happy and jubilant persona that is lead off track by the society and eventually suffers a tragic fate.
Although one might find bitter humour in his endings, a good example can be regarded as the last plate of the Harlot’s Progress, her funeral is planked by other prostitutes, a sad ending what could have been a beautiful life, but one may note that the minister that is supposed to be officiating her funeral is distracted by a female companion and he is unable to concentrate on his tasks.
Hogarth’s artwork is very prejudiced by the social circle in which he stands, many of his works depicts real life events, a social culture that is nasty to incautious victims and unforgiving to the immoral even as they themselves are concealed parties to the acts. Also the butt of his parody was the rising popularity for the taste for all things French and Italian for the English folks, this is of particular apprehension to Hogarth’s, for he felt that foreign artists were stealing from him of his livelihood.
A connected series is The Election (1754, four scenes, London, Sir John Soane’s Museum), while an autonomous painting in a similar vein is O the Roast Beef of Old England (1748, London, National Gallery). This latter painting was motivated by a trip to Calais during which he was arrested as a spy when caught sketching the fortifications, an incident that represent at the left of the painting.
Despite his by now exacerbated chauvinism, he did try to show his aptitude in the Italian Grand Manner, although the results, the likes of the Sigismunda (1759, London, Tate Gallery), are not amongst his most successful works and were very inadequately received by the general public. If anything, the attractive wealth of anecdotal creation and sensitive false impression in his morality paintings tends to be unclear concerning his very considerable abilities as a painter.
This ability, most evident in his fluent and vigorous brushwork, is better revealed in his sensitive portraits – although his normal pugnacity and insistence on painting what he saw as the reality prohibited him from a triumphant career in this field. Hogarth’s charm maybe due his close attention to the on goings that transpire around his surroundings, the economic growth in England as such, employing an unsophisticated pragmatism as well as piercing satirical remarks in the characters of his art shows a reality of misfortunes and failures of his generation providing a eye opener and comical experience to those who views his pictures.
Hogarth was gifted in observation and has a talent for storytelling, plus given his knack for drawing he offers a volatile mixture of a realistic satire that is shown by his engravings. ‘Beer street’ and ‘Gin Lane’ depicted a humour on the benefit of drinking ale and the downfall of drinking gin.
While, in the series The Four Stages of Cruelty, Hogarth is again genuinely moralizing, using an arsenal of satire as a protest against cruelty to animals he has observed at the lowest level of humanity, a city that can be aptly called hell on earth, and the effortless succession from this structure of viciousness to massacre. The vigour of the pictures characterized and the overstated expressions of the figures bring a degree of flippancy to an exceptionally grave issue.
Through his vocation as a portrait painter, Hogarth originated alternative conventions to that originated with Van Dyck in the 17th century. The vivacity communicated by his ultimate knowledge of brushwork and colours, the generosity and thoughtfulness articulated in the facade of those who sit for him, exhibited how close Hogarth considers himself to human beings and how much he can identify with his models. The forthrightness and straightforwardness of appearances exposed in these portraits did not prevent substantial modification in the behaviour of outfits and trimmings.
Young ladies, clergymen in official attire, men of consequence, young lads at prayer, offsprings frolicking in private grounds, dwell in this universe. Hogarth’s unshakable curiosity in the theatre and literature art was a essential segment of his life and art. He highlighted the portrait of the famous actor and dramatist David Garrick, well-known as a supporter and exponent of Shakespeare and deeply admired by Voltaire, settled in at his writing table with his significant other standing at his rear in the manner of a cogitate (Royal Collection, Windsor Castle).