The Ways and Means of a New Class in Hogarth's England

This exhibition illustrates a broad sampling of William Hogarth's (1697-1764) social and political topics drawn from his observations of England's emerging middle class. Composed in narrative form, these etchings let us see Hogarth's acute insight into the middle class psychology is evident in such reknown etchings as "Marriage a la Mode" and "Beer Street and Gin Lane."

Hogarth began publishing engraved works in 1731, early in his career. His etchings were unlike anything the public had seen before. The middle class itself was a recent phenomenon, something artists had not previously recorded, and Hogarth captured the daily human condition in an exhaustive fashion. Public interest was rapidly piqued by Hogarth's pictorial commentaries and in this way, the middle class formed both his subject and his audience.

Subsequent 19th century English and Continental artists emulated Hogarth when they treated similar topics with an eye to social commentary or satire. The widespread popularity and disseminaion of his etchings assured his success in entertaining Rococo England.