Year 5 Visual Arts

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William Hogarth

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William Hogarth, who lived from 1697 to 1764, was trained as an engraver. Hogarth used his skills to make prints that could tell a story which taught a moral, rather like Aesop’s fables. He wanted to help people, especially poor people, to avoid doing things that would cause problems in their lives. For example, he created twelve prints in a series called Industry and Idleness which traces the lives of two apprentices. One, who works hard, achieves great success and becomes Lord Mayor of London, while the other’s idleness leads to a life of crime, for which he is punished.

Could you tell a story by drawing a sequence of pictures? Hogarth wanted everybody to see his stories, including poor people who would never be able to buy a painting or an expensive work of art. Prints were the ideal way to do this, and Hogarth charged only one shilling (5p) for each of the prints of Industry and Idleness so that many people would be able to enjoy the pictures. He hoped they would listen to his lesson and work hard, too!

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Engraving is a very difficult technique to learn. It requires a skilled eye and steady hand plus, as with the other types of print-making we have learnt about, everything has to be cut backwards – in reverse – so that it prints the right way round. To see how difficult this is, try writing backwards and then hold what you have written up to a mirror to see if you can read it the right way around.

Because Hogarth had trained as an engraver, he could cut his own plates. Most artists had to hand the job over to someone else, which meant that they lost control of making the copies. However, another process, called etching, came along which put the artists back in control.

This activity is adapted from pages 171-172 of What Your Year 5 Child Needs to Know.

Click below to see a related activity:

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