By following the up-and-downward spiral from swashbuckling glamour to a broken figure in torn clothes – the exhibition ‘Hogarth: Place and Progress’ creates an arresting story. And ‘arrest’ is the fate of the pitiful figure that artist William Hogarth (1697-1764) created in ‘The Rake’s Progress’. The rake is caught penniless, drunk and on the edge of madness at the end of a riveting series of drawings on display at Sir John Soane’s Museum in central London.
The details of life in the 18th-century, delineating people and place, are fascinating and often breathtaking. With a literal meaning attached to what people wore in that period, garments carried an absolute message. As he followed changes in the main character’s life – from painfully poor, to respectable, to morally corrupt – Hogarth made every gleaming button, each stitch of sumptuous embroidery and each torn pair of breeches tell its own story.
The ultimate decadence is of course that unforgettable image of a drunken mother in the street known as ‘Gin Lane’. Her eyes are vacant and encrusted with muck as she lets her baby fall from her arms. That horrific vision pales in comparison to Hogarth’s compelling series telling stories with a sharp, moralistic edge. The rare ‘happy family’ pictures on show fall very flat in comparison.https://www.instagram.com/p/B6NdpOMHNnQ/?utm_source=ig_embed