Is it reassuring or depressing to witness that binge drinking, unwanted pregnancy and decline of moral society was as much as a concern in the 18th century as it is now? Today a group of Manchester doctors visited the print collection. Just when they thought they’d have an afternoon away from the ailments associated with drink, addiction and unprotected sex, I presented them with Hogarth’s ‘The Rake’s Progress’ – a series of eight prints depicting a young man’s decline into addiction, disease and mental breakdown.

Despite the gloomy prospects of the lead character, Hogarth’s prints are wickedly funny and rich with detail. Like a printed soap opera, the images tell their tales in a brilliantly dramatic way. The lead character, however, rarely enjoys a happy ending.


Hello. My name is Helen and I’m the Assistant Curator for Fine Art at the Whitworth. I’m based in the Prints and Drawings Study Room which is located behind the scenes at the gallery. This means I have access to an amazing collection of Prints and Drawings which are housed in here when they’re not on display or being loaned out to other institutions. Anybody can make an appointment to see the collection. Throughout this blog I hope to share some of these works with you and give you some insight into what we have and how we research, look after and interpret them. I look forward to hearing your comments and insights.

I’m also working on a display about shadow. Most of the works will come from the Whitworth’s collection but the exhibition will also incorporate some exciting new commissions. The collection display will be a gathering of images based on ideas surrounding anonymity, alter ego, darkness, shadow play, and trickery. I’ll be posting updates about the process of bringing the exhibition together as well as ongoing themes and influences.

Welcome to the Prints and Drawings Study Room at the Whitworth. This blog will be opening up the collection and shedding some light on works currently housed in boxes and drawers. We’ll be sharing our discoveries and ideas about the objects. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about our posts and images. Check this blog for regular information about:

  • Who we are and how we work
  • Discoveries and ideas
  • New acquisitions – bringing works into the collection
  • Piecing together displays and exhibitions
  • Looking after our prints and drawings
  • What kind of material is stored in here