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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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Hogarth, William

Hogarth, William

Personal

Born November 10, 1697, in London, England; died October 25, 1764, in London, England; son of Richard (a classical scholar and journalist) and Ann (Gibbon) Hogarth; married Jane Thornhill, March 29, 1729. Education: Studied at St. Martin's Lane Academy, 1723, and Sir James Thornhill's free drawing academy, 1724.

Career

Engraver, illustrator, and painter. Apprenticed to the engraver Ellis Gamble, London, England; set up as an engraver, c. 1720, and painter, c. 1728; visited Paris, 1743, and 1748; appointed serjeant-painter, succeeding James Thornhill, 1757, and reappointed by George III, 1760. Paintings in the collections of the British Museum, Tate Museum, the National Gallery, the Bodleian, and others.

Awards, Honors

Elected governor of St. Bartholemew's Hospital, 1735; appointed Serjeant-Painter by King George 11, 1757.

Writings

Analysis of Beauty, privately printed, 1753, published as Artistic and Psychological Analysis of Beauty, Gloucester Art, 1981.

Apology for Painters, edited by Michael Kitson, [Oxford, England], 1968.

ILLUSTRATOR

William King, Pantheon, 1710.

John Milton, Paradise Lost, 1724.

Lucius Apuleius, The Golden Ass, 1724.

S. Beaver, Roman Military Punishment, 1725.

Gautier de Costes de la Calprenede, Cassandra, 1725.

Samuel Butler, Hudibras, 1726.

N. Amhurst, Terrae Filius, 1726.

A Leveridge, Songs, 1727.

Ebenezer Forrest, Five Days Peregrination, 1732.

Moliere, L' Avare, 1733.

Moliere, Le Cocu Imaginaire, 1733.

Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote, 1738.

Laurence Stern, Tristram Shandy, 1759.

COLLECTIONS OF PRINTS

Complete Works of William Hogarth, London Printing and Publishing Co., 1800.

The Works of William Hogarth, edited by John Nichols, Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, 1822.

Works of William Hogarth, privately printed, 1825, republished, Marathon, 1978.

William Hogarth: His Original Engravings and Etchings, Frederick A. Stokes, 1912, reprinted, 1972.

Engravings by Hogarth: 101 Prints, edited by Sean Shergreen, Dover Publications (New York, NY), 1943, reprinted, 1973.

Drawings of William Hogarth, edited by A. Poppe, Phaidon, 1948.

Hogarth: The Complete Engravings, edited by Joseph Burke and Colin Caldwell, Abrams (New York, NY), 1968.

Hogarth's Graphic Works, two volumes, edited by Ronald Paulson, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1970.

The Art of Hogarth, edited by Ronald Paulson, Phaidon, 1975.

Sidelights

William Hogarth was one of the founders of the English school of painting and, at the same time, the originator of a counter tradition to the very school he helped establish. Born in London and trained there, first by himself and then at John Vanderbank's drawing school, he made important contributions to portraiture, landscape painting, history painting, and aesthetic theory through his book Analysis of Beauty. A man of remarkable versatility, Hogarth made an even greater impact on popular satires which he sold to a broad audience of English men and women who had not owned or bought art before. Hogarth is credited as a forerunner of the modern comic strip for his series of satirical narrative engravings A Rake's Progress and Marriage à la Mode.

Born in London

Hogarth was born November 10, 1697, in the Smithfield Market section of London, England, the city that was his lifelong home and also the recurrent setting for the folly and wickedness satirized in much of his work. His father, Richard Hogarth, was a struggling schoolmaster and hack writer whose marriage with his landlord's daughter, Anne Gibbons, only marginally improved his financial circumstances. Richard's imprisonment for debt and the inescapable poverty of the family even when the father was not in Fleet Prison left a deep impression on the younger Hogarth, evident not only in his pictures capturing the squalor and horror of Grub Street life but also in his meticulous concern for protecting his financial interests when he began to have some success.

Unable to afford a university education or to attend an art academy, Hogarth entered into an apprenticeship with a silversmith in 1714, engraving heraldic ornaments on silver plate and occasionally designing and executing illustrations for cheap novels and shop cards. He took steps, though, to ensure that his career, unlike that of his father, would not be limited to hack work. In 1720, he began to further his education in painting, a much more socially respectable skill than engraving, by affiliating himself with the artists at St. Martin's Academy, especially Sir James Thornhill, whose daughter Jane he married in 1729. He did not leave engraving behind but rather turned it to his own purposes, designing and selling satiric engravings that comically ridiculed some contemporary fashions and fiascos. His single plate (in 1721) on the so-called South Sea Bubble, a disastrous investment scandal, and his series of plates (of 1725-1726) illustrating Samuel Butler's poem Hudibras (1663, 1664, 1678), continuing that poem's mockery of Puritanism, were very popular and perhaps helped convince him that there was indeed a profitable and aesthetically respectable future in such engravings.

It is no slur on Hogarth's personal inventiveness and industriousness to say that he was fortunate to live in circumstances that favored the development and appreciation of his particular type of genius. Such important writers as Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, and Henry Fielding helped to create an audience interested in, and a market capable of, supporting the kind of satire in which Hogarth excelled: concrete, detailed satire that could be savage or genial but was preeminently comic, always as entertaining as it was railing. It is no surprise that Hogarth's achievement is often linked with those authors, in part because he accomplished in visual form what they accomplished in literary form. Nor is it any surprise that Hogarth's first major success is associated with a literary work, whose tone and subject he captured perfectly: His painting of a scene from John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1728) coincided with the enormous popularity of that comically satiric play, brought him into contact with patrons who would support him by commissioning or buying paintings, and, perhaps more important, also gave him the confidence to develop his work in such a way that he might become independent of such patronage.

Creates Moral Stories

The crucial turning point of Hogarth's career came when, after some success painting so-called conversation pictures of people and scenes of interest to upper-class art collectors, he dedicated himself to (in his own words) "painting and engraving modern moral Subjects." These works typically involve a series of highly detailed pictures that tell a dramatic story about a person's sudden rise and fall, and it is a sure sign of Hogarth's skill that in a few carefully realized scenes he could reveal an astonishing amount about a character's temperament, vices, social milieu, and fate. A Harlot's Progress (1731-1732), for example, requires only six plates to follow a young country woman's decline: from her arrival in town, which places her immediately in the hands of a bawdy woman; through several stages as an increasingly dependent, pathetic, and sickly prostitute; then finally to her funeral in a room filled with other prostitutes oblivious to the dismal lesson of her life. The moral intention may well have attracted many people to this work, although Hogarth is rarely "preachy," and much of his satire presupposes a world that refuses to turn from its folly and wickedness. A Harlot's Progress, though, instantly caught on for many reasons, not the least of which is that in it Hogarth expertly pictured a seedy but instantly recognizable part of London life and populated it with likenesses of real people who were currently infamous for their vices or crimes.

Because of its tremendous popularity, A Harlot's Progress was not only imitated but also pirated, reproduced in editions that brought no profit to Hogarth or to his publisher. As a result, Hogarth delayed the publication of his next major work until the adoption of a parliamentary act in 1735 safeguarding at least minimal copyright protection for engravers. His active involvement in lobbying for this act illustrates his shrewd business sense and independence: Though he perhaps could have lived reasonably well supported by his wealthy patrons, he used these contacts to help devise and enact a law that would make such dependence unnecessary. His work in hand, The Rake's Progress (1735), was not only an imaginative work of art but also a valuable property, and Hogarth was very careful about its marketing as well as its creation.

Analogous to A Harlot's Progress, The Rake's Progress follows a young man through a predictable, though dramatic, decline. Material success, Hogarth seems to suggest, is no substitute for humility and common decency: The Rake has all the advantages of wealth as he inherits an estate from his miserly father, but he wastes himself in a series of debaucheries, powerfully anatomized in eight engravings, that end not in death but in madness. Hogarth returned to the pattern of these two "progresses" later in his career: Marriage à la Mode (1745) shows the disintegration of an arranged marriage between two prideful and irresponsible people, and Industry and Idleness (1747) contrasts the fates of two men, one of whom prospers through hard work while the other wastes his time and ends up hanged as a criminal. As interesting and dramatic as these later works are, though, it is the earlier "progresses" that seem to embody fully Hogarth's genius.

Paints First Self-Portrait

Hogarth's first self-portrait, The Painter and His Pug (1745), pictures the artist at the height of his powers. His features are rounded and softened, his eyes stare straight at the viewer in a confident, even bold manner, and his mouth has a trace of a smile, suggesting both self-assurance and benevolence. The top half of his body, all that is pictured, rests on three books, labeled Swift, Shakespeare, and Milton, indicating not only the crucial literary influences in his life but also his particular aspiration to achieve their kind of success. The subjects in the foreground also define two of his main concerns: His dog at one side adds a comic, affectionate touch (animals, especially dogs, appear frequently in his works); at the other side is a palette, inscribed with a graceful S-curve, which he called the "Line of Beauty." At this time in his life, from the 1740s through the 1750s, Hogarth had much about which to feel confident. His deep friendships with Fielding (who praised him in his novels) and the actor David Garrick were the source of much stimulation and support. He began to attract a group of followers, especially after he took over leadership of the art academy at St. Martin's Lane when Thornhill died: Always a teacher, he not only directed this group but also worked on a treatise, The Analysis of Beauty (begun in 1745 and published in 1753), to explain his theoretical principles. His compassion as well as his creativity flourished, and even as he was extremely busy with painting and designing engravings, he continued to serve as governor of a foundling hospital.

The latter part of his life, though, was not so encouraging. Despite the tremendous popularity of his engravings, which went through numerous editions, he found himself increasingly isolated and, he believed, neglected. He was not offered commissions which he eagerly sought, and he repeatedly found that his call for a strong English style of painting resistant to stale classical techniques and subjects was not being heeded by a generation of artists who were moving toward the establishment of a Royal Academy of Art which would enfranchise much of what Hogarth despised: regulated artistic training based on what he believed would be unimaginative imitation of out-moded old masters. Hogarth's appointment as Serjeant-Painter to the King in 1757 was not enough to bolster his spirits and in fact caused more trouble than anything else by leading him into a disagreeable confrontation with two satirists, John Wilkes and Charles Churchill, who attacked Hogarth's defense of the Court interests.

He spent the last years of his life, it seems, fighting losing battles, defending his politics and his theories of art, but perhaps more generally trying to keep at an arm's length the assorted follies and evils he had satirized in his life's work. A late self-portrait, The Artist Painting the Comic Muse (1758), shows him in the process of trying to capture his noble subject, but his body is angular, almost contorted, radiating intensity but no confidence. His last engraving is a vision of failure: Like the ending of Pope's The Dunciad (1728-1743), where "Universal Darkness buries All," and the end of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels (1726), where Gulliver is mad, The Bathos (1764) pictures the inefficacy of all human effort and the end of the world. At the time of his death on October 26, 1764, Hogarth may well have felt overwhelmed by the combined forces of decay he had so energetically contested. Hogarth is rightly regarded as one of the greatest comic artists, despite the fact that his works are filled with violent images and prideful, desperate, or otherwise ridiculous characters who are capable of great cruelty or stupidity and end their lives unhappily. Hogarth's satire is, to say the least, barbed and serious, and his recurrent themes sound like an unrelenting indictment of a fallen world and an inveterately foolish species, man. Again and again, he presents stunning pictures of man's dishonesty, preference for illusion over reality, pride, concern for material and sensual rather than moral comfort, and general unwillingness to be anything more than a beast to others. No one can feel confident that he or she escapes Hogarth's penetrating, satiric gaze. Where, then, is the comedy? Hogarth is often compared to William Shakespeare, but the essential correctness of this comparison appears only after a few important differences are noted. Hogarth does not often show a light comic touch. His characters are not often capable of redemption or change. Most important, he envisions no broad movement of comic reconciliation, as in the marriages that end Twelfth Night: Or, What You Will (c. 1600-1602) and As You Like It (c. 1599-1600). Hogarth failed to complement the dismal view presented in Marriage à la Mode: He planned but was never able to complete a sequence called "The Happy Marriage."

There is more to comedy, though, than lightness and happy endings. Hogarth shares with Shakespeare a deep immersion in the physical world and the life of the body, displayed in abundant details. His pictures are filled with liveliness and energy, often misdirected, it is true, but perpetually intriguing. The actions portrayed are not always enviable—the suffering of a criminal or the posturing of fops at the pretentious soirée, for example—but they are always captivating. William Hazlitt, one of Hogarth's great admirers, called this liveliness of subject and style "gusto," and that term suits Hogarth perfectly.

If you enjoy the works of William Hogarth

If you enjoy the works of William Hogarth, you might want to check out the following:

The works of William Holman Hunt, whose art focused on themes related to illumination and conversion.

Henry Fielding, Tom Jones, 1749.

The works of James Gillray, whose caricatures satirized the British political scene of his day.

From a modern point of view, Hogarth's special merit lies in his clever blending of text and picture to make a telling point in a single statement. His creations were so clearly different from the conventional illustrations of his time that a new name "cartoon" was coined for them. Like the greatest comic and satiric artists, Hogarth had a basic willingness to acknowledge the ridiculous, and he did so without resorting to caricature: He broke through all proprieties to reveal basic, unclothed human traits, few of which are attractive. Through most of his career, he was not cynical but honest, concerned less with sympathy than with accuracy. At its best and most characteristic, Hogarth's work is provocative and problematic, allied more closely with the comic interludes of Shakespeare's tragedies and history plays than with his benevolent and hopeful comedies.

Biographical and Critical Sources

BOOKS

Antal, Frederick, Hogarth and His Place in European Art, Basic Books (New York, NY), 1962.

Ayrton, Michael, Hogarth's Drawings, [London, England], 1948.

Beckett, Ronald B., Hogarth, [London, England], 1949.

Berry, Erick, The Four Londons of Hogarth, [New York, NY], 1964.

Bindman, David, Hogarth, Oxford University Press (Oxford, England), 1981.

Brown, Gerald B., Hogarth, New York, 1905.

Cowley, Robert L. S., Hogarth's Marriage à la Mode, Cornell University Press, 1983.

Dabydeen, David, Hogarth's Blacks, [Manchester, England], 1987.

Dabydeen, David, Hogarth, Walpole, and Commercial Britain, [London, England], 1987.

de Voogd, Peter Jan, Henry Fielding and Hogarth: The Correspondences of the Arts, [Amsterdam, Netherlands], 1980.

Garnett, Edward, Hogarth, Duckworth, 1910.

Gaunt, William, The World of Hogarth, Pitman (London, England), 1978.

Gowing, Lawrence, Hogarth (catalog), [London, England], 1971.

Hind, Arthur M., Hogarth: His Original Engravings and Etchings, [New York, NY], 1912.

Jarrett, Derek, The Ingenious Mr. Hogarth, M. Joseph (London, England), 1976.

Klingender, Francis D., Hogarth and the English Caricature, [London, England], 1944.

Lamb, Charles, Complete Works and Letters, Modern Library (New York, NY), 1935.

Lichtenberg, Georg C., Ausführliche Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche, fourteen volumes, [Gottingen, Germany], 1794-1833, published as The World of Hogarth: Lichtenberg's Commentaries on Hogarth's Engravings, [London, England], 1966.

Lindsay, Jack, Hogarth: His Art and His World, [London, England], 1977, Taplinger (New York, NY), 1979.

Mitchell, Charles, editor, Hogarth's Peregrinations, [Oxford, England], 1952.

Moore, Robert E., Hogarth's Literary Relationships, [Minneapolis, MN], 1948.

Paulson, Ronald, Hogarth: His Life, Art, and Times, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 1971.

Paulson, Ronald, Popular and Polite Art in the Age of Hogarth and Fielding, University of Notre Dame Press, 1979.

Quennell, Peter, Hogarth's Progress, Viking (London, England), 1955.

Quenn Ireland, John, Hogarth, Illustrated from His Own Manuscripts, three volumes, [London, England], 1791, 3rd edition, 1812.

Webster, Mary, Hogarth, [London, England], 1979.

Wehrli, Rudolf, G. C., Lichtenbergs ausführliche Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche, [Bonn, Germany], 1980.

Wensinger, Arthur S. and William B. Coley, Hogarth on High Life: The "Marriage à la Mode" Series from Lichtenberg's Commentaries, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1970.

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