William Hogarth (1697-1764) was one of the most important English painters.
His style was characterised by a vigorous sense of reality and was rich in satirical and moralistic implications.
Contrary to the neo-classicists, William Hogarth does not believe that antique art should be the supreme source of inspiration for painters and sculptors. During his entire career, he maintained and mentioned that the observation of reality is the best way to produce something original. Hogarth examined the contemporary world in great detail, in particular life in London: this is how this painting sees the light. It tells the story of Tom Rakewell, lascivious son of a stingy man, driven mad by dissolution and excessive prodigality.
In this painting, the rake drinks in the company of two prostitutes, that take advantage of his inebriated state to slip off his watch, set at three o’clock. In the centre, another prostitute splashes some gin in a friend’s face, while someone is showing his affection with his partner. On the threshold two musicians entertain the fellow guests, while a pregnant beggar sings an obscene ballad loudly. In the foreground a girl, who is just about to get undressed, will shortly be dancing on the table.
One of the main sources of inspiration for Hogarth is the theatre, from which he takes hints for the dramatic effects and for the representation of figures which are esaily recognizable by the public. He wants to bring out what he calls the “character” of each, not just in the face, but also in the clothes and in the behaviour.