East India Company

Black People in Britain: Hogarth - The Savage and the Civilised

William Hogarth's representations of black people in the 18th century.

Hogarth's 'Marriage à-la-mode', number 4: The Toilette. In over two dozen works Hogarth uses black people in an astonishing variety of ways, ranging from the La Motraye illustrations of 1724 to the Election series of 1750s. Sometimes black people are used as a literary device, as in the Burlington Gate print where Hogarth evokes the adage about 'washing a blackamoor white', or in the Rake's Progress sketch where he evokes the term 'black Masters' – Hogarth's satire in that painting being directed against collectors of dark and dingy art. At other times the black, like the black woman beating hemp in the prison scene of the Harlot's Progress , is an intricate detail in a complex narrative structure, involving an elaborate and cynical reference to Berkeley's Bermuda Scheme, Oglethorpe's Georgia Scheme and related ideas about the Christianisation of blacks and Indians in the colonies.

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