Art: Not So Dumb Show

Visitors to Washington's National Gallery last week found themselves on a rubberneck tour of 18th-Century London. They peered into brawling alleys and elegant, candlelit drawing rooms; into prisons where the whipping posts were "the reward of idleness" and cockpits where the gamblers seemed more ferocious than the cocks. The tour conductors: blunt, biting William Hogarth, ribald Thomas Rowlandson.

Rowlandson's raffish lampoons showed a corrupt but essentially comic world in which everyone was either too fat or too thin. Plump, pug-faced William Hogarth was perhaps harder to take. With less wit, he had gone...

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