A Rakes Progress by William Hogarth, is a series of 8 satirical tableux images depicting the story of Tom Rakewell. These images were popular as they held up society to a microscope exposing the way society delt with the up and coming classes. The message that can be drawn from this set of images is that a dramatic tableaux  has a meaning not a subject (Barthes and Heath, 2007). studying the Hogarth illustrations and relating it to the discussion of tableux in Barthes book Image Music Text, I am drawn to the idea that the images in my body of work should be expressing the meaning of a myth rather than the subject. When I created the concept images I was very much depicting a main scene from the myth that would make the story recognisable, however I feel that there is a need to understand the meaning or maybe moral of the myth and rather project that with the image. This is where the style used by Hogarth plays its part in informing my practice as it demonstrates the telling of a story that has a definate meaning, one that is only conveyed by a series of several images, something that was commented on by my tutor in the A1 feedback. My initial response to this was to attempt to crreate full graphic novels for each myth. This turned out to be something of a monumental task as discussed elsewhere on this blog. By diving back into the recomendations from my tutor in A1, I can see a path I missed in the excitement to create a graphic novel. I am now going to look at the idea of a short series of tableaux images to tell the story focusing on delivering the meaning rather than the subject.


Credit line: (c) (c) Royal Academy of Arts /

Rakes Progress a series of images by William Hogarth tells the story of Tom Rakewell who inherits a fortune then succumbs to financial ruin and madness through excess.

Plate one depicts Tom in his deceased father’s chambers being fitted for a mourning suit as he inherits his father’s wealth. The young pregnant girl is Sara who Tom made pregnant promised to marry then tried to pay off.

Plate two depicts Tom in a stately mansion, surrounded by those who stand to benefit from his patronage.

Plate three depicts Tom carousing with prostitutes in a private room at the notorious Rose Tavern on Drury Lane.

Plate four depicts Tom, now in debt, stopped by bailiffs as he rides a sedan chair. Tom’s former lover Sarah Young tries to free him with coin.

Plate five depicts Tom, who is now in debt and pursued by bailiffs, marrying a wealthy old woman in Marylebone Old Church. Sarah and her mother are attempting to enter the church and prevent the marriage.

Plate six depicts Tom, Now Married to the wealthy old woman curses his fate, having gambled away the last of his assets (legally a wife’s possessions became her husband’s property on marriage).

Plate Severn depicts Tom, who lost all his money, and has been remanded to the debtors’ prison. His wife, rages at him for gambling away her fortune. Sarah visits him and feints from stress.

Plate eight depicts Tom is in Bedlam after losing his mind and being committed.