Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Industry and Idleness

One of Hogarth's famous print series is Industry and Idleness which was a common theme for many prints of the time.  Hogarth's multiple prints followed the many exploits and good deeds of two young men but in the series by the same name put out by lesser artists it was more common to have pretty young ladies symbolizing the foils.  Not only were women more marketable in the print industry, their good or bad deeds tend to have greater repercussions than those of men.

In George Morland's series we have Industry busily tatting away on long lace trimmings.  If you noticed her outfit to be a bit off, you are quite right.  A hat and coat is unusual attire to attend womanly duties but Industry is ever-ready to go out of the house to attend to some other task or errand.  Idleness on the other hand, has plenty of time to engage the viewer with coy eye contact.  Her sewing pouch lies in disarray at her feet, obviously not in use.  Even Idleness' dog can't be bothered to do much.  At the time, idle women tended to be associated with lascivious women.  By the look on Idleness' face and the way she draws the viewer's eye to between her legs by placing her right hand there; we are left to assume she is not just an idle woman but a woman with little morals.

Francis Wheatley's version of the same theme displays Industry and Idleness in the lower classes.  Industry busily works mending a piece of clothing, so busy she can't be bothered by the suave young man attempting to get her attention.  Despite the dog allowing itself to be distracted by the man, Idleness can't be bothered by his presence.  Wheatley's Idleness is interesting in that she is actually doing something (feeding the kitten) but is distracted from her work by what we can assume is the same young man, based on the unfortunate hat he wears in both prints.  Wheatley's definition of the foils derives chiefly from their ability to avoid horny young men, otherwise Idleness might be successful in her to-do list.  Perhaps his series would be more aptly named Easy and Mission Impossible.


  1. I wondered by Idleness had her hand between her legs; I thought I was reading too much into it, but I guess I wasn't! And it's weird how Industry is wearing what looks like a riding/walking outfit indoors, you're right.

  2. Okay, during the second example, the bottom picture, my eyes kept going to the guy's nose. It's huge! it's just so distracting =/

    But anyway, it's just so sexist how women were put down more than women when it came to doing something wrong in the eyes of society.

    And i agree with Jillian. It is extreamly odd how Industry is wearing the riding outfit outdoors. You'd think she's be in her day gown or something.

  3. Well, she's not wearing her day gown because she is about to go out. Industry is always on the move!

  4. I see nothing wrong with the morals of this one. I see this as quite equal in taking responsibility. there is plenty of 18th century prints ridiculing lotharios and their miserable lives.
    I guess Industry wears outdoors outfit as she is getting also ready to do some outdoors chores.