Lifelong Learning Programme

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Artists - ArtWorks

Name of the Artist / Artwork:

William Hogarth

Country: United Kingdom
Century: 1700 - The 18th Century
Artist / Artwork Description:

William Hogarth (1697-1764) was English painter, printmaker, satirist and cartoonist - a painter of portraits and moral stories.

Synthetic Chronology:

Born 10 November 1697 London
1720 became an engraver
1727 hired by Joshua Morris, a tapestry worker, to prepare a design for the Element of Earth.
1729 married the daughter of Sir James Thornhill, an English painter in the Italian Baroque tradition
1730 set up as a portrait painter
1735 ran an academy in St. Martin’s Lane, London
1757 appointed Serjent Painter to the King
Died 26 October 1764

The Context:

Hogarth lived in an age when artwork was becoming increasingly accessible, viewed in shop windows, taverns and public buildings and sold in print shops.. Hogarth hit on a new idea: "painting and engraving modern moral subjects ... to treat my subjects as a dramatic writer; my picture was my stage". And so he began a series of ‘story’ pictures that were to epitomise, observe and criticise the society of the day, but still have resonance for the modern viewer.


In his youth he was apprenticed to the engraver Ellis Gamble in Leicester Fields, where he learned to engrave trade cards and similar products. He also took a lively interest in the street life of the metropolis and the London fairs, and amused himself by sketching the characters he saw.
By 1720 Hogarth was established as an independent engraver on copper of billheads and book illustrations.
In his spare time he studied painting, first at the St. Martin’s Lane Academy and later under Sir James Thornhill.
He started to make his name with small conversation pieces and portraits.

National Comparative:

Unlike most other English painters of his day Hogarth chose subject matter that stimulated his interest rather than simply working to commission. In 1730 he invented and popularised the use of a sequence of anecdotal pictures similar to representations on the stage, to satirize social abuses and point a moral.

Artistic Analysis:

Hogarth made his art a vehicle of his moral fervour and in this he shows an originality and storyteller’s skill that is perhaps uniquely English. His use of narrative and critical observation can be seen to relate back to the Bayeux Tapestry, Matthew Paris, the Luttrell Psalter and William Caxton..
Hogarth’s etchings and paintings each portray the punishment of vice, often in a somewhat lurid melodrama. As he stated, “I have endeavoured to treat my subjects as a dramatic writer, my picture is my stage and men and women my players.”
Other important English painters of this century were the portrait rivals Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough.

Hogarth also anticipates, and has been a great influence on, several contemporary artists like David Hockney, Paula Rega and Yinka Shonibare who have continued his satirical themes and critical view of current society.

Transnational Comparative Analysis:

Hogarth drew from the highly moralizing Protestant tradition of 17th century Dutch genre painting. His move from Roccoco portraiture to personal insights into social conditions is echoed in the work of Franceso Goya in Spain a few years later. His satirical eye undoubtedly helped the development of the political cartoon and caricature that began to appear toward the end of the 18th century in Britain and France.

Development of the artist's work through the years:

Hogarth’s early engraving work was very much in the Rococo tradition of his teachers, but over the years his portraits developed a warmth and freshness to rival Gainsborough and Reynolds.
He also developed the unique satirical style in his elegant conversation pieces and bawdy low-life scenes.


Hogarth was the most important British artist of his generation. He liberated British art with his original paintings and engravings. He also promoted an academy (independent of the one at which he had studied) and this became the main forerunner of the Royal Academy.


Hogarth, William (1697–1764),David Bindman, (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004)
William Hogarth, Matthew Craske ((British Artists Series 2001)
Art in Europe, 1700-1830: A History of the Visual Arts in an Era of Unprecedented Urban Economic Growth, by Matthew Craske (Oxford History of Art)

Comments about this Artist/ArtWork

Date: 2009.09.18

Posted by Michal Seroczynski,POLAND

Message: William Hogarth

The man who used to fascinate others by his mastery was William Hogarth, English painter and graphic. But not only his sketches and engravings on copper were arousing imagination, but also the matters standing behind those pictures.
The XVIII century was not the most wonderful one In the history of painting and the greatest personages of that epoch were not too much interested In that art’s domain. The biggest pressure was put on the art’s decoration functions. Therefore the art itself was not too excessively recognized.
However that was the initial period in the history of art when the creators tried to loosen binds of stereotypes . They were no longer expected to demonstrate their religious beliefs or visions of nature in their pictures. In Europe then there were no present any pictures regarding the current events, however on another side of the Channel – in England the engravings on copper by William Hogarth composed the cycle of 4 fabulous parts which were dedicated to the circle of Oxfordshire in the years 1754-1755. The personages exposed there were 4 politicians. William Hogarth by means of his numerous masterpieces used to present the political situations of that epoch and therefore his that way understood lessons could be really a great replacement of both art. lesson and history lesson. The most famous works of that author could be found on sites:

Date: 2009.05.28

Posted by Teodora Zeia, National School of Arts "Dobri Hristov"-Varna, Bulgaria

Message: William Hogarth is said to combine “the glamour of Antoine Watteau and the spellbinding narrative of Jan Steen” in his creative work and to be “capable of amusing his audience so greatly that the viewers can rejoice in his sermon without being compelled by the message it sends”. His first series of “moral works”- “A Harlot’s Progress’ marks a great success and is followed by “A Rake’s Progress” (a sequel of eight pictures), which probably is his most popular one. An excellent example of political satire is the series “The Humours of an Election (four oil paintings and later engravings), which is “a very credible comment on the “much boasted” political system. The figure of the blind fiddler in “Chairing the Member”is a “bright idea, which oversteps the usual limits of Hogarth’s moralizing journalism”. (The quotation is from Kenneth Clark’s Civilization)

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