Cruelty in Perfection, 1751
William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)
RA Collection: Art
The third of William Hogarth's Four Stages of Cruelty, made with the intention of drawing attention to animal cruelty and, like the contemporaneous Beer Street and Gin Lane, made with the intention of reaching the audience for popular prints. As a result they are not engraved with the refinement typical of Hogarth's prints and were sold less expensively. Paulson notes that the engravings 'have the brutal simplicity of woodcuts' and Hogarth also planned to publish a cheaper set of woodcut versions of the set for wider circulation. Only the last two plates, however, were completed (by a specialist wood-engraver, J. Bell). The verses under each image are probably by Hogarth's friend, the Rev. James Townley.
All four plates centre around the figure of 'Tom Nero' and the way that his increasingly barbaric mistreatment of animals leads to his own downfall after he is apprehended for murder. Here Nero, having brutalised animals in the first two plates, is apprehended in a country churchyard after murdering his pregnant mistress. On the floor beside him lay a pistol and stolen watches, evidence that he has turned to theft to make his living.
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