Art theme: scenes of everyday life

Scenes of everyday life are known by art historians as 'genre' paintings. They usually focus on ordinary and unidentifiable people doing normal everday things. This is the opposite of what art historians call 'history' paintings where the artist shows a specific scene from history or myth. 

Contextual background for teachers

Chairing the Member (1754–1755)
William Hogarth (1697–1764)

Medium: oil on canvas
Dimension: H 103 x W 131.8 cm

English painter, printmaker and social critic William Hogarth presents a deliberately chaotic representation of the notoriously corrupt Oxfordshire election of 1754. (All four paintings in this series are in Sir John Soane's Museum.)

In this scene, two newly elected (and contested) members of the Tory parliament are carried aloft in the chairs by the crowds. How many different kinds of people can you spot? Are there different ages, social classes, etc.? How has Hogarth presented a feeling of chaos?

Think carefully about how he has employed composition and movement, and even farm animals! He is commenting on the current affairs of his day – how many different human vices is he trying to depict? Perhaps the rather plump goose flying overhead represents greed. Is anyone in this country town overwhelmed by the sight and the sound of this cascading riot? You may need to look carefully for this one.

Hogarth said, ' picture was my stage'. What other elements of this work could be described as theatrical? Hogarth turned to cartoon drawing and painting to express himself in the eighteenth century – what do we do today?

Look, describe and discuss

Open a full-screen version of the zoomable image in a new window.

Ask your students to describe the artwork, encouraging them to simply say what they can see.

You can start by showing the whole image, and then use the zoom feature to explore details of the painting. Or you might like to start by using the zoom feature to show a detail from the image, and then zoom out to see more.

Encourage your students to look carefully – this is their superpower! It's best to not give too much background information about the artwork at this stage, so students can develop their own ideas and opinions.

Nudge questions

Now when looking at the painting, ask more specific ('nudge') questions:

  • What do you think is going on here? Who or what does the artist want us to look at first?
  • How are the identities of the different figures in the painting expressed?
  • Besides the human figures, is there anything else in the painting that helps to set the scene?
  • Do you think that this looks like a fun place to be at this time?
  • What is our viewpoint? Are we close to the action or distanced from it?

Questions from The Superpower of Looking Kit

Now we can start to explore the 'elements' of the painting.

Use The Superpower of Looking Kit to ask questions about the artwork.

For this artwork, you will focus on:

Ask your students to evidence their points:

  • where exactly are they looking when they make a statement?
  • can everybody see what they see?
  • slow down, take time to really look closely

You may like to introduce knowledge from the contextual background for teachers at this point.

Everyone learning

You can find out more about The Superpower of Looking® SEND/ASD/ALN approach on the Superpower homepage.

Now it's time to explore the artwork in different ways. This list of sensory activities encourages students to apply their learning and can suit a variety of learning needs.


  • Which issues do your students care about? Make a protest poster with this activity from Tate to put students' positive messages out into the world
  • Can students spot a second figure being carried along on a chair in the painting? Create a shadow puppet to continue his journey – you might like to use this shadow puppet guide from the Royal Academy. Will his journey be bumpy or smooth?



  • Listen to Rule, Britannia! by Thomas Arne, which was very popular in the 1750s, when Hogarth painted this work. What does this music make students think of? Why is the singer dressed up here? Does the music – like the painting – play with ideas of what it means to be proud of your country?



  • Get your students to touch the fabric used in the clothing in the painting. How do the fabrics worn by the different classes in the painting feel to the touch?



  • Encourage students to choose one figure in the painting and mimic their pose. Can the rest of the class guess which figure they're copying?



  • Take a vote in class to make a decision or even hold a mock election. You might like to use these resources on voting from UK Parliament.
  • Students should choose one figure in the painting before sharing with a partner how they think the figure is feeling and why they think this.

Final stage: review

Ask your students to:

  • share their sketchbooks in groups and discuss the 'elements' they have identified
  • choose an element/aspect they find most interesting about the artwork and record it in their sketchbooks
  • choose their own name/s for the title of the artwork
  • think of a question they would like to ask the artist



You have now completed this lesson resource on The Superpower of Looking.

There are more resources in this theme to try – have a look at the 'next lessons' section below.

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