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Museum shows stories of Hogarth’s moral series

05 October, 2018 — By The Xtra Diary

A Rake’s Progress by Hogarth tells the fortunes of Tom Rakewell – here in a scene at a wild party in a brothel

So many artists have captured the essence of London – Blake, Turner, Canaletto, Pissarro, Whistler, Ardizzone… but has anyone ever been so linked to our city as William Hogarth?

And it was with great joy that Diary – accidentally – came across the originals of his work A Rake’s Progress, at Sir John Soane’s Museum, in Holborn, and it reminded your correspondent of the many wonderful surprises London holds.

Born in 1697 in Smithfield, Hogarth concentrated his brushes firmly on the city he called home: his use of printing meant his works were seen by a wide audience, and he also chose subject matter that was accessible.

The first painting: Tom being measured for a new suit

His most famous work is of course A Rakes Progress, which tells the story of Tom Rakemore. Born into wealth, we follow Tom as he moves from his father’s home to a flash pad in the West End, from which he was able to easily enjoy the bookies and brothels of Covent Garden. We watch him fall into debt, head to court, debtors’ prison and finally end up in Bedlam asylum at Moorfields.

Soane’s wife, Eliza, bought them at a Christies auction in 1802, paying the not inconsiderable sum of 570 guineas. They were taken to Soane’s country pile in Ealing but when they moved back to Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Hogarth’s masterpieces where given wall space in his Picture Room – and there they hang today.

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