Hogarth was a painter, printmaker, satirist and social critic all rolled up into one. He enjoyed poking fun at people. To this day critics describe paintings done in his style as ‘Hogarthian’. The French expression à-la-mode means done according to the current fashion. In this picture, Hogarth is pointing fingers at arranged marriages.
Marriage ethics were the subject of heated debate in 18th Century Britain, as the new industrial class jumped status by marrying into wealthy aristocratic families that had money to invest. In this version of Marriage à-la-Mode (there are six in all) the artist depicts a disconnected husband wishing he were somewhere else, and his wife clearly on another planet.
Hogarth lived at a time when lithographers were finding ways to reproduce paintings, and introducing commercialised art into peoples’ homes. Writers had begun producing novels with a moral twist. Hogarth described himself as ‘painting and engraving modern moral subjects … to treat my subjects as a dramatic writer; my picture was my stage.’