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Hogarth articulates the aesthetics of collapse by way of visual motifs such as upturned furniture, spillage and decaying architecture. Not only does Hogarth use these motifs to show chaos and disorder within individual scenes, he also uses these ideas to illustrate society's collapse and downfall, through satire and dark humour. Hogarth, throughout his work, satirises the corrupt and debauched nature of London society in both the upper and lower classes, which was perhaps influenced by his own personal experience. Hogarth's father, after opening an unsuccessful coffee house at St John's Gate, was imprisoned for debt in Fleet Prison. Unquestionably, Richard Hogarth left behind a hard life for his family; William, at this time, was only ten years old. Growing up and living in the hedonistic centre of London gave this artist first-hand experience to draw upon for his artwork. Through a tea tray being kicked across the room, or a baby being carelessly dropped, Hogarth not only satirises these often ridiculous individuals, but strives to show the viewer the immoralities of a damaged society, one that should and could be reformed.

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The Four Times of the Day
Gin Lane
Harlots Progress
The Cock Pit
All images © Trustees of the British Museum

4.William Hogarth, The Rake's Progress, Plate VI, engraving (1735)
1.William Hogarth, The Four Times of the Day, Plate II("Noon"), engraving (1738)
2.William Hogarth, Gin Lane, engraving (1751)
3.William Hogarth, A Harlot's Progress, Plate II, engraving (1732)