Art: Ribaldry & Realism

By the evidence of merciless, meticulous William Hogarth and the caricaturists who followed him, 18th-Century London was mostly a hell of rich periwigged idiots and drunken slum dwellers.

Like Writers Fielding and Swift of their day, Engravers Hogarth, Rowlandson and Gillray masked their acid realism with ribaldry, spared little that was worth debunking. Nymphs were turned into hoydens, generals into cannibalistic monsters, politicians into poisonous toadstools. The plump Duke of Norfolk was pictured lying on a table like an apple dumpling, Tom Paine was made to look as thin and mean as a sharp knife, the Royal Georges were shown with the...

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