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William Hogarth

William Hogarth

William Hogarth (1697-1764), the most original painter of his age in England, invented a new species of dramatic painting and is one of the great masters of satire in engraving and painting.

William Hogarth was born in St. Bartholomew's Close, London, on Nov. 10, 1697, the son of a classical scholar who conducted a private school. In his draft for an autobiography Hogarth wrote that he was exceptionally fond of shows and spectacles as a child and that he excelled in mimicry. He left school at his own request in 1713 and was apprenticed to the silver-plate engraver and dealer in plate Ellis Gamble.

Hogarth disliked the drudgery of his apprenticeship and especially copying the designs of others. His ambition to become a history painter was fired by seeing the late baroque paintings in process of execution by Sir James Thornhill at St. Paul's Cathedral and Greenwich Hospital. During his apprenticeship Hogarth invented a system of visual mnemonics, a linear shorthand that enabled him to reconstruct figures and scenes which had arrested his attention.

When his father died in 1718, "disappointed by great men's promises" to subscribe to a projected Latin dictionary, Hogarth's family supported itself by going into trade, his younger sisters setting up a dress shop and he himself going into business as a tradesman-engraver in 1720, the year his apprenticeship expired. His early commissioned work consisted largely of shop cards, ornamental and heraldic designs for silver plate, and illustrations for books.

In 1720 Hogarth joined the St. Martin's Lane Academy, the decisive step in his training as a painter. In 1724 he published his first independent print, Masquerades and Operas, Burlington Gate, an attack on English subservience to foreign art. During this period of intense activity as an engraver, he laid the foundation for his remarkable knowledge of prints, including reproductions of the Old Masters.

By 1728 Hogarth was ready to make his debut as a painter, and he quickly established a reputation as a master of the conversation piece. The following year he eloped with Jane Thornhill, the daughter of his boyhood hero Sir James Thornhill. The turning point in Hogarth's career (it is said to have effected the reconciliation with his irate father-in-law) was the success of the Harlot's Progress prints in 1732. The idea originated in a single picture, to which he was urged to add a companion, a typical rococo conceit, but other ideas multiplied until he had told the story of a prostitute's downfall in six stages. The original paintings were destroyed by fire in 1755.

There were precedents for narrative series on similar themes in Italy and the Netherlands, but Hogarth's invention is distinguished by its strict attention to the model of the English tragicomedy of manners. Publication of his second series in dramatic form, the Rake's Progress, was delayed until 1735 so that his rights could be protected by the Copyright Act of the same year, commonly known as Hogarth's Act. His dramatic trilogy concluded with Marriage àla Mode, published in 1745.

Encouraged by his friend Henry Fielding, Hogarth next turned to moral satires that burlesqued baroque grand-manner painting; that is, he chose epic models rather than dramatic ones. The masterpiece of this group is the four prints of An Election Entertainment (1755-1758). He was now an acknowledged leader of his profession, and he led the agitation against proposals to found a royal academy on the French model.

Hogarth's opposition to an academy is intelligible in the light of his earlier efforts to raise the status of British art and free its practitioners from dependence on aristocratic patronage. In the 1730s he had been active in a scheme for decorating the pleasure resort of Vauxhall Gardens with contemporary paintings and sculpture, and in 1745 he followed this up with an even more ambitious project for the presentation of works by living artists to the Foundling Hospital, the first donors being largely recruited from the St. Martin's Lane Academy, which he had revived in 1735. Hogarth believed that if artists united to exhibit their works and especially to sell prints made from their paintings they would be able to resist the influence of the connoisseurs, against whom he waged a lifelong war.

Hogarth threw himself with equal energy into moral and humanitarian causes as a governor of St. Bartholomew's Hospital and a foundation governor of the Foundling Hospital, frequently joining forces with Fielding, for example, in an anti-gin campaign. Hogarth was particularly concerned with the welfare of the young of the laboring and artisan classes, for whom he designed the series Industry and Idleness (1747), and with the prevention of cruelty, the theme of the Four Stages of Cruelty (1751). At the same time he never relinquished his ambitions to become a religious painter in the grand manner, executing more monumental pictures for churches and public institutions than any other English artist between Thornhill and Benjamin West.

His narrative satires gained Hogarth a Continental reputation. His income was adequate to support a town house, a country home at Chiswick, and six servants. In 1757 he obtained the highest honor open to his profession: the appointment as sergeant painter to the king. He was at work on his last print, the Bathos, a mock-rococo counterpart to Albrecht Dürer's Melancolia, when he was taken ill and died at Leicester Fields on Oct. 25, 1764.

Further Reading

Hogarth's autobiographical writings are published from the original manuscripts in the standard edition of his esthetic treatise, The Analysis of Beauty, edited by Joseph Burke (1955). Ronald Paulson, Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times (2 vols., 1971), is the definitive modern biography, and Paulson's monumental Hogarth's Graphic Works (2 vols., 1965) is the definitive edition of his engravings. In Joseph Burke and Colin Caldwell, Hogarth: The Complete Engravings (1968), the emphasis is esthetic, and paintings and drawings are included for comparative purposes. The drawings and paintings are covered respectively in two illustrated catalogs: A. P. Oppé, ed., The Drawings of William Hogarth (1948), and R. B. Beckett, Hogarth (1949).

Additional Sources

Gaunt, William, The world of William Hogarth, London: J. Cape, 1978.

Gowing, Lawrence, Hogarth, London Tate Gallery 1971.

Hogarth, William, The art of Hogarth, London: Phaidon; New York: distributed by Praeger Publishers, 1975.

Jarrett, Derek, The ingenious Mr. Hogarth, London: M. Joseph, 1976.

Lichtenberg, Georg Christoph, Lichtenberg's Commentaries on Hogarth's engravings, London, Cresset P., 196.

Lindsay, Jack, Hogarth: his art and his world, New York: Taplinger Pub. Co., 1979, 1977.

Paulson, Ronald, Hogarth, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991-c1993.

Paulson, Ronald, Hogarth: his life, art, and times, New Haven, published for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (London) by the Yale University Press, 1971.

Paulson, Ronald, Hogarth: his life, art, and times, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1974.

Rosenthal, Michael, Hogarth, London: Jupiter Books, 1980.

Webster, Mary, Hogarth, London: Studio Vista, 1979. □

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Hogarth, William (1697–1764)

HOGARTH, WILLIAM (16971764)

HOGARTH, WILLIAM (16971764), English painter and engraver. Famous for his biting and satirical visual commentaries on urban life, William Hogarth had a particularly profound impact on the development of print culture, especially political cartoons and the modern comic strip.

Born in London to the schoolmaster Richard Hogarth and Anne Gibbons, Hogarth served an apprenticeship in 1713 to a silver-plate engraver before becoming an independent engraver in 1720. By this time he had also taken up painting, attending the academy in St. Martin's Lane. During the 1720s and 1730s, Hogarth emerged as an important portraitist, producing several impressive "conversation pieces"small-scale informal group portraits of members of a family or friends in social gatheringsand a number of sensitive portraits of individual sitters. Hogarth, however, pursued his goal of history painting, achieving his first major success in 1729 with The Beggar's Opera, the representation of a scene from John Gay's popular satirical ballad opera. In his Biographical Anecdotes, Hogarth later explained that he conceived of his pictures as stages, and men and women his players, "who by means of certain actions and gestures, are to exhibit a dumb shew" (Hogarth, 1955, p. 209). It was, above all, with his so-called modern moral subjects that Hogarth developed his ideals of pictorial drama. In this innovative genre, Hogarth related moralizing tales drawn from contemporary life in a sequence of narrative paintings, which were subsequently engraved and circulated widely. Satirical in tone, these modern moral subjects offered tart critiques of virtually all social groups.

The first of these sequential narratives, A Harlot's Progress (1732), comprised six scenes that followed the misfortunes of a country girl in London. Scene two shows her dominating a Jewish lover, having adopted the flamboyant lifestyle of an aristocratic lady, complete with gossiping servants and a tea-bearing black servant. In subsequent scenes, the woman declines into prostitution and finally dies of syphilis. A similar trajectory can be witnessed in Hogarth's A Rake's Progress (1735), which tracks the fate of its spendthrift protagonist from inheritance to the madhouse. Hogarth's most lavish modern moral subject was, however, Marriage à la Mode (1745). This set of imagesHogarth's only series to take place completely indoorscomments directly on the evils that stem from greed and a continual quest for status. Scene four shows the consequences of a doomed arranged marriage. At a morning reception, the newly wed countess presides over a colorful group of hangerson, including a French hairdresser, who fusses with her hair, and an Italian castrato. Marriage à la Mode also addresses artistic taste by lampooning contemporary fashion for Continental finery, including baroque painting and Palladian architecture.

Hogarth set forth his thoughts on aesthetics systematically in his 1753 treatise The Analysis of Beauty. In this illustrated text, Hogarth drew on everyday life and often comic examples to argue that the judgment of beauty was not the prerogative of the connoisseur, whose pretensions he despised, but rather a set of qualities available to a wider public.

Hogarth's serious works offered fresh perspectives on the persistent social illssubstance abuse, poverty, and moral decaythat plagued life in eighteenth-century London. Operating within the lively paper culture that was transforming the early modern public sphere, Hogarth's successful pictorial dramas both reflected these ills and developed visual critiques of their causes. In so doing, Hogarth produced a socially, morally, and politically engaging art that addressed issues of class, gender, and race in an age of colonial expansion. The artist's skepticism left few unscathed; he ruthlessly poked fun at politicians (as in The Times, The Lottery, and The Election series), industrialists (The South Sea Scheme), clerics, the lower, middle, and upper classes. However, Hogarth also offered strikingly sympathetic representations of, for example, professional women: seamstresses, milkmaids, ballad-sellers, fish-girls, and actresses. His engaging Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn (1738), issued with the Four Times of Day print series, can be regarded as an icon of working-class women. His lucidly executed painting The Shrimp Girl (c. 1745; National Gallery, London) expresses the natural virtue of "common people" and, possibly, the nation. Hogarth's social didacticism emerged most strongly in his graphic series Industry and Idleness (1747) and the diptych Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751), which offer the viewer a rhetorical choice between good and evil.

Although one may recognize the moral thrust of Hogarth's works, it is difficult to align them with a single authorial voice. His work established a mode of British urban narrative marked by multiplicity, ambiguity, and trenchant humor.

See also Britain, Art in ; Caricature and Cartoon ; Prints and Popular Imagery .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

Hogarth, William. Autobiographical Notes (c. 1764). In The Analysis of Beauty. Edited by John Burke, pp. 201236. Oxford, 1955.

Nichols, John. Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth and Catalogue of His Works Chronologically Arranged. London, 1781.

Secondary Sources

Bindman, David. Hogarth. London, 1981.

Dabydeen, David. Hogarth's Blacks: Images of Blacks in Eighteenth Century English Art. Kingston-upon-Thames, U.K., 1985.

Fort, Bernadette, and Angela Rosenthal, eds. The Other Hogarth: Aesthetics of Difference. Princeton, 2001.

Hallett, Mark. Hogarth. London, 2000.

Paulson, Ronald. Hogarth. 3 vols. New Brunswick, N.J., 19911993.

. Hogarth's Graphic Works. 2 vols. 3rd ed. New Haven and London, 1989.

Angela H. Rosenthal

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Hogarth, William

William Hogarth, 1697–1764, English painter, satirist, engraver, and art theorist, b. London. At the age of 15 he was apprenticed to a silver-plate engraver. He soon made engravings on copper for bookplates and illustrations—notably those for Butler's Hudibras (1726). He studied drawing with Thornhill, whose daughter he married in 1729. Hogarth tried to earn a living with small portraits and portrait groups, but his first real success came in 1732 with a series of six morality pictures, The Harlot's Progress. He first painted, then engraved them, selling subscriptions for the prints, which had great popularity. The Rake's Progress, a similar series, appeared in 1735. The series Marriage à la Mode (1745) is often considered his masterpiece. With a wealth of detail and brilliant characterization he depicts the profligate and inane existence of a fashionable young couple. Hogarth invented a sort of visual shorthand that enabled him to recall with perfect clarity whatever sight he wished to retain. He became, by this means, an enormously learned artist possessing a profound visual understanding. His Analysis of Beauty (1753) is a brilliant formal exposition of the rococo aesthetic. In such prints as Gin Lane and Four Stages of Cruelty Hogarth is very sincerely didactic, employing the weapons of satire against the cruelty, stupidity, and bombast that he observed in all levels of the society of his day. His portraits The Shrimp Girl (National Gall., London) and Captain Coram (1740) are two of the masterpieces of British painting. Hogarth's major works are in England. In New York City the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection possess examples of his work.

See his Analysis of Beauty, ed. by J. Burke (1955); his graphic works, ed. by R. Paulson (rev. ed. 1970); biographies by P. Quennell (1955), R. Paulson (1971), D. Bindman (1985), and J. Uglow (1997); studies by F. Antal (1962), G. C. Lichtenberg (tr. 1966), S. Shesgreen (1982), and L. S. Cowley (1988).

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Hogarth, William

Hogarth, William (1697–1764). Artist. London-born, disinclined to scholarship, but frustrated with armorial engraving, Hogarth set up as an illustrator, largely self-taught, before producing ‘conversation pieces’, engraved scenes of contemporary life, and history painting. Pugnacious, provocative, and a passionate believer that honest naturalism was preferable to the sterility of formal training, he suffered for his attempts to ridicule the deeply entrenched, Renaissance-based theories of good taste, and sought vainly to encourage a native English school of art. Underrated as a painter, he is best remembered for his moral and satirical engravings (Rake's Progress, Marriage à la Mode, Gin Lane) which provide a forthright dissection of the times; promoting industriousness and respectability, the prints were deliberately cheap to facilitate wide distribution. A chauvinistic Englishman, Hogarth was actively interested in philanthropic projects, especially Thomas Coram's Foundling hospital, was appointed sergeant-painter to the king (1757), quarrelled with Wilkes, and declined in acrimony.

A. S. Hargreaves

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Hogarth, William

Hogarth, William (1697–1764) English painter and engraver. Hogarth established his reputation with A Harlot's Progress (1731–32), the first in a series of ‘modern moral subjects’. He painted narrative pictures that satirically exposed the follies and vices of his age. Hogarth is best known for A Rake's Progress (1733–35) and the masterpiece Marriage à la Mode (1743–45). He reached a wider audience by producing engravings of his paintings. He also excelled at portraiture, such as Captain Coram (1740).

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