Childhood & Early Life
Born on November 10, 1697, at Bartholomew Close in London, William Hogarth was the only son of Richard Hogarth, a minor classical scholar, schoolmaster, and textbook writer; and Anne Gibbons. He had two sisters, Mary and Ann.
Growing up, he developed interest in the street life of London and would often sketch the characters around him.
A failed coffeehouse business in 1707 got his father in huge debt. He was imprisoned in ‘Fleet Prison’ until 1712 and died in 1718.
In 1713, to support his family's finances, Hogarth apprenticed as a plate engraver with 'Ellis Gamble.' By 1720, he had set up his own plate engraving shop. He then attended a private drawing school in St. Martin's Lane and became a member of the 'Rose and Crown Club.'
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Hogarth began creating engravings during the 1720s. The engravings were mostly inspired by popular theatre shows.
The 'South Sea Scheme' and 'The Lottery,' both created in 1721, helped Hogarth earn a reputation as an artist in London.
The satirical 'Emblematical Print' on the 'South Sea Scheme' was published in 1724 and depicts the 'South Sea Bubble,' the disastrous stock market crash of 1720.
Some of his other early works include 'The Mystery of Masonry brought to Light by the Gormagons' (1724), 'A Just View of the British Stage' (1724), and some book illustrations.
The small print 'Masquerades and Operas,' created in 1724, is a satire on his contemporary follies, a theme that he continued in 1727, with the sequel, 'Large Masquerade Ticket.'
Hogarth produced his most valued work in 1726 - a series of 12 engraving illustrations of poet Samuel Butler's narrative poem 'Hudibras.’
In 1727, tapestry worker Joshua Morris hired him to design for the 'Element of Earth' but Morris refused the work after completion, as he had come to know that Morris was an engraver and not a painter. In 1728, Hogart sued Morris and the case of was decided in his favor in May 1728.
On the theme of Freemasonry, Hogarth's most notable work is 'Night,' the fourth in the series of four oil paintings (later released as engravings in 1738) depicting various aspects of London life, called the 'Four Times of the Day.'
The engravings were made on Jonathan Tyers' insistence for his newly opened New Spring Gardens at Vauxhall. He used the engraving for the interior of the lodge.
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Between 1728 and 1732, Hogarth created some oil paintings, such as 'The Fountaine Family' (1730), 'The House of Commons examining Bambridge,' 'The Assembly at Wanstead House,' and portraits of actors in John Gay's popular play 'The Beggar's Opera.'
Hogarth also turned his focus to small "conversation pieces" around the time.
He sketched a portrait of British murderer Sarah Malcolm, who was awaiting her execution.
From 1731 onwards, he produced ''modern morality'' paintings, which were copied and sold in large numbers to the public. These prints earned him great recognition and were eventually converted into a pantomime. The most notable among the series was 'A Harlot's Progress,' a collection of six paintings, which were later published as engravings.
The success of the series resulted in the sequel 'A Rake's Progress,' a collection of eight pictures depicting the luxurious life of Tom Rakewell, the son of a rich merchant.
The success of these two series resulted in piracy of his artwork. Using his contacts in the parliament, Hogarth introduced an 'Engravers' Copyright Act' (known as 'Hogarth's Act') of 1735 to exercise greater legal control over the reproduction of artworks.
One of Hogarth's masterpieces of the 1730s depicted an amateur performance of playwright John Dryden's play 'The Indian Emperor' or 'The Conquest of Mexico.'His other works of the decade include 'A Midnight Modern Conversation' (1733), 'Before and After' (1736), 'Scholars at a Lecture' (1736), 'The Distrest Poet' (1736), and 'Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn' (1738).
The decade also witnessed Hogarth’s Biblical scenes, such as 'The Pool of Bethesda and The Good Samaritan,' produced in 1736–1737 and displayed at 'St Bartholomew's Hospital.'
Between 1740 and 1745, Hogarth mostly created portraits of the rich and influential elite of London society. Some of them are of 'The Graham Children' and ‘Captain Coram’ for the 'Thomas Coram Foundation for Children' (now in the 'Foundling Museum' of which Hogarth was the founding Governor).
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Hogarth's masterpieces of the period are 'The Shrimp Girl,' an incomplete oil of a young fisherwoman (at 'National Gallery,' London); and 'Heads of Six of Hogarth's Servants.'
During 1743–1745, he made a satire on the institution of marriage with a series of six pictures titled 'Marriage Marriage A-la-Mode' ('National Gallery,' London).
In 1746, his fame increased further with the sketch of Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat, who was executed on 'Tower Hill.'
In 1748, his ‘The Roast Beef of Old England' created at the French port of Calais caught the attention of the French police who had previously accused him of being a spy. After entering the port as a tourist, the artist began sketching the fortifications. This drew the attention of the French police who accused him of being a spy.
Some of Hogarth's biblical pictures created in the decade were of Moses when brought before Pharaoh's daughter (1747), Paul before Felix (1748) and his altarpiece for 'St. Mary Redcliffe,' Bristol (1755–56).
His other works from the era were the 12 prints of 'Industry and Idleness' (1747), 'Beer Street and Gin Lane' (1751), and 'The Four Stages of Cruelty' (published 21 February 1751).
Hogarth's 'The Analysis of Beauty' (1753) chronicles his ideas of artistic design and the principles of beauty and grace. The book was highly praised but was criticized by his opponents and rivals.
Back in England, Hogarth lost his interest in flattering political paintings about the French. At the peak of his career, he made a not so-successful attempt as a historical painter.
In 1757, Hogarth replaced his brother-in-law as sergeant painter in the court of the British monarch.
In 1762, his anti-war satire 'The Times' was scrutinized by the radical politician John Wilkes. He even published a sarcastic article in the newspaper 'The North Briton' to dismiss Hogarth's work.
Hogarth responded with an engraving 'John Wilkes Esq.' mocking the MP.