|Published||Designed & Engrav'd by Wm. Hogarth. Publish'd according to Act of Parliament 30 Sept. 1747 [John & Josiah Boydell, London 1790].|
|Dimensions||Images 260 x 335 mm, Plates 265 x 348 mm, Sheets 645 x 480 mm|
A set of twelve plates over six sheets, printed as a pair per sheet, Industry and Idleness was intended by Hogarth as a moral instruction for young apprentices, and a demonstration of the fortune that attends a life of diligence as opposed to a life of dissolution. Hogarth's autobiographic notes indicate that the set was engraved in a much more simplistic style when compared to his earlier, and economically taxing, Marriage-A-la-Mode, to facilitate a much cheaper and larger print run in an effort for broader dissemination. Contemporary commentary seems to suggest that Hogarth's hopes were realised, with the series becoming a popular gift from Masters to their Apprentices, particularly at Christmas. Compositionally, the plates are much more direct in their subject and message than some of Hogarth's other morally instructive series, and unambiguously accompanied by relevant Biblical passages drawn mostly from Proverbs and Leviticus. Francis Goodchild, the Industrious apprentice, is usually located on the right of each scene, surrounded by symbols of order, forthrightness, and success, whereas his idle counterpart, the appropriately named Tom Idle, appears at left, usually in an environment which is chaotic, unbalanced, or base. Subversively, the manner in which the series would be read would depend on the viewer's position in life. As Paulson notes, Masters would no doubt see the series as a moral lesson, holding up the bland Goodchild as an exemplar, while their apprentices would be far more likely to side with Tom Idle, seeing him as a victim of circumstance.
Plate 1: Two young apprentices are contrasted in the workrooms of a local merchant. One, Tom Idle, rests with his head against a support bar of his loom, his work abandoned. A large tankard locates the scene as Spittlefields. His 'Prentices Guide' lies abandoned on the floor, its bindings gone and its pages torn. A cat plays with his unused spindle. In comparison, his fellow apprentice, Francis Goodchild, is hard at work, his face a picture of benign classical beauty. Their Master, the wealthy Mr West, enters the room, a look of frustration on his face as he surveys the lazy Tom, his stick held menacingly in the air.
Paulson 168 ii/ii, BM Satires 2896
Plate 2: Goodchild attends Sunday mass at St-Martin's-in-the-Fields, singing from the hymnal of his master's daughter. The scene is one of harmony and order, the well kept prentice matched by the architectural unity of his surroundings.
Paulson 169 ii/ii, BM Satires 2905
Plate 3: Tom Idle, meanwhile, loiters in a Churchyard, avoiding mass to gamble with a team of fellow wastrels. One of them, a one-eyed fellow in a striped cap, will later become one of Tom's criminal running-buddies. Tom attempts to cheat the others by holding his hat over part of the money, stretching out on the grave in an act of dramatic foreshadowing. Likewise, a dishevelled shoe-shine stands on a set of boards over a newly dug grave, skulls and bones cast around the central group. A local beadle holds his cudgel above his head, ready to drive off the shabby crowd before him.
Paulson 170 ii/ii, BM Satires 2914
Plate 4: Time has moved forward, and the industrious prentice has been rewarded with higher duties. He has moved from the looms to keeping accounts for his master. To the left of the scene, a porter wearing the arms of the City of London carries rolls of fabric, accompanied by a scrappy dog that barks at the workshop cat.
Paulson 171 ii/ii, BM Satires 2926
Plate 5: The idle apprentice is an apprentice no longer, having been cast out by his Master for his lack of work ethic. Instead he has been 'put to sea' and is shown in a rowboat with his possessions in a case. His compatriots make fun of him, pointing out the gallows as a threat for misbehavior. Tom, uncowed, throws the cuckolds horns at them in an act of defiance.
Paulson 172 iii/iii, BM Satires 2935
Plate 6: Goodchild has now finished his apprenticeship, and as well as being listed as a partner in his Master's firm, is now married to the Master's daughter. The scene takes place on the day after their wedding, where the newlyweds distribute largess from the window of their house to an assembled crowd of drummers and well-wishers.
Paulson 173 iv/v, BM Satires 2945
Plate 7: Where Goodchild has made a man of himself, married, and is now living in security and peace, Tom Idle's career at sea has also been a failure. With no profession or wealth of his own, he has taken to the life of the highwayman, and here seeks solice in the garret of a common whore. He has barricaded the door to protect himself, but is startled by a cat, which crashes down the chimney in pursuit of a rat. Tom's prostitute, meanwhile, is more interested in his takings than his concerns, and helps herself to a pair of earrings.
Paulson 174 ii/ii, BM Satires 2954
Plate 8: Francis Goodchild is now a Sheriff of London, honoured in a large banqueting hall, probably intended to represent the Guildhall. Goodchild and his wife sit below a large portrait of William III, while a statue in a niche to the left of the scene represents Sir William Walworth, the Lord Mayor of London reputed to have struck down and killed Wat Tyler, thus effectively ending the Peasant's Revolt.
Paulson 175 ii/ii, BM Satires 2963
Plate 9: Tom Idle's whore has sold him out and called the Watch to arrest him and his accomplice, the one-eyed man from the graveyard in Plate 3. The men are caught red-handed, dividing up the spoils while the murder victim is shoved down a trapdoor.
Paulson 176 iii/iv, BM Satires 2971
Plate 10: The heavy foreshadowing of the previous plates finds its conclusion in the courts, where Tom is dragged before Goodchild, now an Alderman. His accomplice sells him out with false confession, leaving Goodchild to pass the verdict of death upon his former colleague.
Paulson 177 ii/ii, BM Satires 2980
Plate 11: Tom, repentant at his final hour, is brought to the gallows at Tyburn for his execution. A huge and unruly crowd has gathered, some of whom fight with each other in the foreground. One man prepares to hurl a dog at the Methodist preacher attending the condemned. At centre, a shabby matron with a baby in her arms advertises copies of Idle's 'Last Dying Speech and Confession.'
Paulson 178 iii/iii, BM Satires 2989
Plate 12: The conclusion of the series sees the Industrious Prentice, Francis Goodchild, invested as Mayor of London. Another large and unruly crowd gathers, a timely reminder that the same people who celebrate your highs of fortune will happily watch you hang in that same fortune's lowest ebb.
Paulson 179 iii/iii, BM Satires 2997
William Hogarth (1697 - 1764) was born in London, the son of an unsuccessful schoolmaster and writer from Westmoreland. After apprenticeship to a goldsmith, he began to produce his own engraved designs in about 1710. He later took up oil painting, starting with small portrait groups called conversation pieces. He went on to create a series of paintings satirising contemporary customs, but based on earlier Italian prints, of which the first was The Harlot's Progress (1731), and perhaps the most famous The Rake's Progress. His engravings were so plagiarised that he lobbied for the Copyright Act of 1735, commonly referred to as 'Hogarth's Act,' as a protection for writers and artists. During the 1730s Hogarth also developed into an original painter of life-sized portraits, and created the first of several history paintings in the grand manner.
Condition: Strong clean impressions with full margins. Repaired tear to bottom margin of second sheet, to platemark of Plate 4.