The First Stage of Cruelty, 1751
William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)
RA Collection: Art
The first 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.
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. Here Nero (the central figure bearing an 'St G' (for St Giles' Parish) badge on his armand his friends torture dogs and cats. St Giles was also the locale Hogarth selected for the equally nightmarish Gin Lane (17/3553), which depicted the consequences of widespread gin drinking amongst the lower classes.
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