While creating 'The Vanity of Small Differences', Grayson Perry was inspired by many artists. A key inspiration was the 18th-century painter William Hogarth’s moral tale, A Rake’s Progress, which is part of the exhibition. 

The eight paintings in William Hogarth’s A Rake’s Progress (1733) tell the story of Tom Rakewell, a young man who follows a path of vice and self-destruction after inheriting a fortune from his miserly father.

The original paintings are held in the Sir John Soane Museum, London but sets of etchings are in held in many museum collections and have inspired responses from a number of leading British artists such as David Hockney and Grayson Perry.

Hogarth is best remembered for ‘Modern Moral Subjects’, works that comment on contemporary society. A Rakes Progress followed the hugely successful A Harlot’s Progress (1730). In the story a young man falls prey to the corrupting effects of 18th century consumerism. Tom spends his miserly father’s fortune on art, music, women and other gentlemanly pursuits. Having married a rich older woman and gambled away her wealth, his life ends tragically when he is sent to a debtor’s prison and, having lost his mind, ends his days in Bedlam Mental Hospital.