This print is part of set of 12 prints Hogarth made illustrating a story he called Industry and Idleness, originally published in 1747. They tell the contrasting stories of an industrious apprentice and an idle apprentice: a young weaver who works hard, goes to church, marries the boss’s daughter, takes over the business and rises to be Lord Mayor of London and his co-worker, who ignores his responsibilities and associates with the dregs of society, and so loses his apprenticeship and is sent off to sea, and upon his return is betrayed by his disreputable friends and is executed at Tyburn. Along with many of his 18th Century contemporaries, Hogarth believed in art as a medium for moral instruction and social improvement. He stated that these prints were “for the use and instruction of .( )..young people.” In order to make this possible he kept the design and the engraving plain and simple so that “the purchase of them became within the reach of those for whom they were chiefly intended.”
Although William Hogarth was a successful portraitist and illustrated works of literature, he is chiefly remembered for his social satires and biting commentaries, which greatly influenced his contemporaries and succeeding generations of artists. His works are in collections of major museums around the world, especially in his native England.
David Ross, “William Hogarth,” U.K.: Britain Express. 2000. http://www.britainexpress.com/History/bio/hogarth.htm
“William Hogarth: Industry and Idleness,” Allentown, PA: 1998, http://www.hearts-ease.org/cgi-bin/gallery_series.cgi?ID=99&series=1