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The London of William Hogarth's paintings and engravings is a city of tumultuous visual stimulation. In this selection of images, a viewer will find multiple layers of narrative complimented by similarly overlapping modes of depiction. As a consequence of this, these satirical works establish the streetscape as a stage on which the dramatic lives of London's population are played out on top of one another.

This is a theatre of actors from all walks of life, none of whom are safe from the artist's satirical eye or his unforgiving burin. Aristocrats compete with beggars for pictorial prominence, freemasons with prostitutes, the bourgeois with musicians and street performers. Occasionally the result is a rare harmony, with disparate elements united in a collage of images perfectly reflecting the values and aesthetics of an increasingly metropolitan London. Generally, Hogarth depicts scenes of turmoil in which the individual vices of this city's inhabitants are exposed for the viewer's scrutiny, in series that are fraught with moral instruction.

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Medley Print:Sot's Paradise
Masquerades and Operas
The South Sea Scheme
Four Times of the Day
Bear Street
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All images © Trustees of the British Museum

1.George Bickham the Elder, Medley Print: Sot's Paradise, engraving (1706-1707)
2.William Hogarth, Masquerades and Operas (or Bad Taste of the Town), engraving (1724)
3.William Hogarth, The South Sea Scheme, engraving (1721
4.William Hogarth, Four Times of the Day, Plate IV("Night"), engraving (1738)
5.William Hogarth, Beer Street, engraving (1751)
6.John Cooper after William Hogarth, Hudibras, Plate XI ("Burning ye Rumps at Temple Barr"), engraving (1726)