About William Hogarth

Hogarth did not become a revered artist without hardship. He was born into genteel poverty in the City of London in 1697 near the thriving Smithfield meat market and the edifices of Newgate and Fleet prisons. Since his family was poor he was unable to afford art school; he instead became an apprentice at the age of 15 to an engraver. Two years before it was to end, Hogarth broke his agreement with the engraver and took on the more ambitious trade of engraving copper. This new trade would allow him to become more familiar with a variety of pictorial styles. In 1724, recognizing that graphic satire was both a viable commodity in the print market and an outlet for his artistic freedom and invention, Hogarth decided to design, engrave, and publish a satiric print. This was simply a means to end for Hogarth however. Ultimately he wanted to become a painter. He continued to engrave in order to make money while on the side teaching himself how to paint. After saving up enough money to pay the tuition, Hogarth enrolled in James Thornhill's private art school. There he fell in love with Mr. Thornhill's daughter and they eloped in 1729. By 1731 he was well established in the field of conversation pieces. Throughout his career he created images that questioned things like political satire, moral stories, and everyday life. "William Hogarth lived at a time when England was becoming increasingly urban and commercial, as well as an aggressive imperial power. He commented both positively and negatively on this society, celebrating the benefits of commerce, politeness, and patriotism, while simultaneously exposing its corruption, hypocrisy, and prejudice." 15 Hogarth attempted to capture the lives of the people living in London during the 18c. He was not attempting to sugar coat the situations they were facing or the amoral decisions being made behind close doors. "Hogarth's pictures, even more than the novels of Dickens, hold a steady, unflinching mirror to the worst of London life." 16 By the 1730s, Hogarth was a well-established artist but suffered from printsellers who used his work without paying royalties. This led him to persuade his friends in Parliament to pass the Engravers' Copyright Act. Also in 1735, Hogarth established St. Martin's Lane Academy, a guild for professional artists and a school for young artists. Hogarth became seriously ill in 1763 after completing his engraving entitled John Wilkes, Esq.; in July of 1763, he suffered a paralytic seizure. However, he did not let that stop him from his work. He completed his final print, Tailpiece, in April of 1764 and passed away on October 25, 1764. 17


Hogarth's Other Popular Images

1735 The Rake's Progress: The Rake in Bedlam

1750 Beer Street

1750 The March to Finchley

1763 The Bruiser

1763 John Wilkes, Esq.



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