Chardin, Stil Life with Peaches, 1768 Chardin, Grace, 1740
The rococo style somewhat influenced British art in the eighteenth century, but it was never embraced as
fully there as it was in other parts of Europe. Some of the visual elements of rococo can be seen in the
art of William Hogarth, but Hogarth was a satirist, and he used the style to comment on the lack of morality
in aristocratic society. Hogarth was above all a printmaker; his paintings were usually just preparations
for his prints. Hogarth’s series of engravings typically tell the story of a young man or woman who, either
through a lack of morals or the bad influence of others, comes to a disgraceful end.
Marriage à la Mode is a series that can be seen as a satire of the lack of genuine feeling and morality
among the upper classes in the 18th century. Hogarth’s figures have the delicate proportions and gestures
that recall Watteau’s couples, but Hogarth places them within compositions crowded with symbolic
objects. In The Marriage Contract, the first engraving in the series, the young man and woman turn away
from each other on the right, while their fathers work out the details of the deal on the left side.
Throughout the image are signs of the aristocratic lord’s squandered wealth (including his fine collection
of paintings), and of the bride’s father’s lack of breeding (for example, his slouched posture and more
common apparel).
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