Artist biography

WILLIAM HOGARTH 1697–1764

Painter of portraits, history and contemporary narrative genre, also leading engraver; first British-born artist of European standing. Born London, 10 November 1697, son of unsuccessful classics master and writer, Richard Hogarth. Son-in-law of Thornhill (q.v.).

Apprenticed 1714 to silversmith Ellis Gamble as ornamental engraver, worked independently from c. 1720. Enrolled in St Martin's Lane Academy in October 1720. Began painting in oils probably in late 1720s, and first noted as a serious painter after producing several versions of a scene from The Beggar's Opera of 1728. Successful throughout 1730s as accomplished painter of small-scale conversation pieces. Gained popular acclaim in 1732 with publication of engravings after the first of his ‘modern moral subjects’, ‘The Harlot's Progress’. This was followed by other series, notably ‘The Rake's Progress’ (Soane Museum) in 1735, ‘Marriage A-la-Mode’ (National Gallery) in 1745, and ‘The Election’ (Soane Museum), painted in 1754–5. Set up his own academy run on democratic lines in St Martin's Lane with equipment inherited from Thornhill in 1734, and was the chief instigator of the Engravers' Copyright Act of 1735. Painted his first large-scale histories for the staircase of St Bartholomew's Hospital 1735–6; encouraged presentation and display of works by British artists at the Foundling Hospital, where his ‘Captain Thomas Coram’ of 1740 is one of the masterpieces of portraiture on the scale of life of this period. Visited Paris in 1743, and possibly again in 1748, and much of his fluid handling of paint suggests French influence. His theoretical work The Analysis of Beauty, published 1753, was not well received and much of the remainder of his life was overshadowed by quarrels with the establishment. Exhibited at the SA 1761. Died at his house in Leicester Fields 25 or 26 October 1764; buried at Chiswick.

LITERATURE Beckett 1949; Paulson 1965; Paulson 1971; Webster 1979; Bindman 1981

EXHIBITIONS Hogarth, Tate Gallery 1971


Published in:
Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, The Age of Hogarth: British Painters Born 1675-1709, Tate Gallery Collections, II, London 1988