And in this light I hope my prints will be consider'd, and that the figures referr'd to in them will never be imagined to be placed there by me as examples themselves, of beauty or grace, but only to point out to the reader what sorts of objects he is to look for and examine in nature, or in the works of the greatest masters. My figures, therefore, are to be consider'd in the same light, with those a mathematician makes with his pen, which may convey the idea of his demonstration, tho' not a line in them is either perfectly straight, or of that peculiar curvature he is treating of. Nay, so far was I from aiming at grace, that I purposely chose to be least accurate, where most beauty might be expected, that no stress might be laid on the figures to the prejudice of the work itself. For I must confess, I have but little hopes of having a favourable attention given to my design in general, by those who have already had a more fashionable introduction into the mysteries of the arts of painting, and sculpture. Much less do I expect, or in truth desire, the countenance of that set of people, who have an interest in exploding any kind of doctrine, that may teach us to see with our own eyes.
Sean Shesgreen, a foremost authority on Hogarth, has consistently selected the best states of the plates to be used in this edition and has carefully introduced them, commenting upon the artist's milieu and the importance of plot, character, time, setting, and other dimensions. A most important aspect of this book, found in no other Hogarth edition, is the positioning of the editor's commentary on each plate on a facing page. With the incredible and sometimes overwhelming amount of detail and action going on in these engravings, this is a most helpful feature.
Originally published in 1753 with the subtitle, "Written with a View of Fixing the Fluctuating Ideas of Taste," Hogarth's book addresses the general public, not just artists and connoisseurs. More than 30 striking black-and-white plates trace visual and formal applications of the serpentine line of beauty, portraying subjects as diverse as everyday objects, examples from nature, and classical sculpture and other works by the great masters. A revolutionary approach to art theory by an experienced painter, this historic book offers fascinating insights into ideals of beauty and aesthetics.