29 March 2007 - 01 July 2007
William Hogarth is most frequently associated with incisive social satire as seen in works such as his Rake's Progress, and his devotion to the Foundling Hospital may seem surprising. This exhibition examined the little known charitable aspect of Hogarth's character.
Though his own marriage was childless William Hogarth (1697-1764) devoted twenty-five years of his life towards improving the lives of London’s abandoned children through his involvement with the Foundling Hospital. Hogarth was involved as a Governor of the Foundling Hospital from the beginning. He served as an active member of the Court of Governors as well as of the General Committee. He supported the Foundling Hospital by designing the children's uniforms and the Foundling Hospital seal, acting as a foster parent for foundlings and even volunteering to inspect the conditions of the homes of wet nurses hired by the institution.
He was also connected to most of the great philanthropic projects of his time, including St Bartholomew’s Hospital, the London Hospital, Bethlehem Hospital, as well as the Parliamentary Committee on prison reform. His example reflects an increased charitable awareness in eighteenth-century society, with individuals ranging from artists to aristocrats devoting time and money towards helping their fellow man.
Hogarth’s work also reflects the century’s changing attitudes towards children through the writings of philosophers such as John Locke. They came to be viewed as existing in the highest state of innocence and no longer considered to be born carrying the scars of their parent’s sins. All children could, with good instruction and the help of places such as the Foundling Hospital, grow up to be virtuous, contributing members of society. Hogarth uses his paintings and engravings to draw our attention to the suffering of society’s poorest children but also asks us to delight in the characters of the young, their mischievousness, innocence, and intelligence.
Hogarth's Children provided further insight into the motivations and passions of a dynamic and remarkable man and the catalogue can still be purchased from the Museum Shop.
Artist: William Hogarth
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