In this original book, Mark Hallett offers a new perspective on English satirical prints of the first half of the eighteenth century, recovering their dual status as ambitious works of graphic art and as eloquent pictorial commentaries on urban culture and politics. Hallett examines the distinctive characteristics of graphic satire as an artistic genre and as a vehicle of social and political critique. He investigates a wide variety of the most important graphic satires of the period, from the celebrated engravings of William Hogarth to those of other inventive artists like John Sturt, Anthony Walker, John June, Hubert Francois Gravelot, and the two George Bickhams. He shows how contemporary satirists mixed the materials of high and low art to create hybrid and provocative images that dealt with a broad range of controversial issues including alcoholism, the excesses of fashion, financial collapse, freemasonry, political corruption, and prostitution.
Combining close readings of individual satirical prints with a broader history of the genre in this period, Hallett places graphic satire in the contexts of a thriving and competitive market for prints in London and an urban society riven by debate, faction, and scandal. He traces the changes that satire underwent through the first fifty years of the century, from the vitriolic political and religious prints produced during the Sacheverell crisis of 1709-1710 to Hogarth's shocking mid-century engravings of The Four Stages of Cruelty. Locating graphic satire within the overlapping worlds of engraving, painting, journalism, and literature, this book provides a fascinating look at the relationships among art, politics, and the city in the eighteenth century.