William Hogarth

Southwark Fair

Southwark Fair by William Hogarth

Artwork Detail

Hogarth brilliantly draws on the social milieu of the fair both in his painting and in his etching of Southwark Fair. Public festivities such as carnivals were occasions where the daily grind could be forgotten. The work combines realism and allegory, setting grand themes such as the Fall of Troy and the Expulsion from Eden against the lesser 'falls' of daily life, where pockets are picked and debtors are arrested for failure. Amidst the chaos, the beauty of the drummeress serves to mediate the scene. In 1732 Lee and Harper's booth at the lower end of Mermaid Court in Southwark was indeed showing Theophilus Cibber's pantomime 'The Harlot's Progress', which had been made into a ballad opera. In Southwark Fair local actors involved in a current theatrical dispute could be recognised in the backdrop of Hogarth's stage. Spectators could pore over the details of the work, and form their own, no doubt, vociferous opinions of the political and social comment contained within. Hogarth specialised in overlaying the public and private spheres of his day, juxtaposing themes such as the play between reality and representation, money and love, dress and show, so that the functions of acting and imitation became blurred. In a manner partly reminiscent of Brueghel, he exposed the foibles of society, each social class in turn being sharply prodded for pretending to be what they were not. (from The Guide, 2001)

Southwark Fair
William Hogarth
Production date
346 x 451 mm
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 1990
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
Not on display

To find out which artworks are available for print requests and reproduction please enquire here. This service only applies to select artworks in the Gallery's collection.