- David Bindman
William Hogarth (1697–1764)
Hogarth, William (1697–1764), painter and engraver, was born in Bartholomew Close, Smithfield, London, on 10 November 1697 and baptized in St Bartholomew-the-Great on 28 November 1697, though his birth and baptism were entered in the nonconformist register. He was the eldest of the three children of a schoolmaster and author, Richard Hogarth (d. 1718), and his wife, whose maiden name was Anne Gibbons (d. 1735). The two other children were Mary, born on 23 November 1699 and baptized on 10 December at St Bartholomew's, and Ann, born in October 1701 and baptized at St Sepulchre on 6 November 1701. Richard, by tradition the son of a farmer or shepherd from the Vale of Bampton, Westmorland, became a schoolmaster, and went to London in the late 1680s. Richard, also by tradition, had a brother Thomas, known as Ald Hogart, who was, according to the Cumberland historian Adam Walker, celebrated as a ploughman playwright and poet, organizing villagers in dramatic performances (Nichols, 1–4). Despite the importance attached to him by John Nichols and John Ireland, his connection to Hogarth is shadowy, and his known poems are not especially rustic.
Richard Hogarth's main enterprise in London was to publish Latin and Greek textbooks, the first appearing in May 1689, but he also ran a Latin-speaking coffee house in Clerkenwell from 1703 to 1707/8, and on its failure was confined for debt in the Fleet prison and then allowed to live nearby within the rules of the Fleet, from which he was freed in 1712. He managed to publish another Latin textbook in the same year, but his great aim was to compile a Latin dictionary, for which he failed to find a publisher, and his son remembered until late in life 'the cruel treatment he [Richard] met with from Bookseller and Printers particularly in the affairs of a lattin Dictionary' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 204–5). Richard died on 11 May 1718 and was buried at St Bartholomew's. This sad career effectively denied his son all hopes of university or professional training, 'putting him in a way to shift for himself' (ibid., 201), and obliging him to take the route of a modest apprenticeship. He ended up in the undistinguished silver workshop of Ellis Gamble in Cranbourne Street, Leicester Fields, London, where he remained from February 1714 probably until early 1720. Hogarth's determination to rise in the world and his later cantankerousness may have had their origins in the family's early misfortunes.
Early career: the 1720s
The passion for collecting rare Hogarth prints in the late eighteenth century led to the attribution to him of numerous silver designs from the period of his apprenticeship. In fact, only the Walpole Salver (Bindman, Hogarth and his Times, no. 87; V&A), made long after in 1728, is at all convincing. He was able to set up as a copper-engraver soon after his apprenticeship, producing his own shop-card dated 23 April 1720 (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 3), and over the next five or six years establishing himself as a jobbing engraver. He took on shop-cards, funeral tickets, and book illustrations, but it was elaborate satires on contemporary themes that brought him to wider notice. The South Sea Scheme of c.1721 (ibid., no. 43), attacked the familiar target of the South Sea Bubble, and Masquerades and Operas of 1723–4 (ibid., no. 44), the taste of the ‘Town’. Each employs numerous figures and a minute handling in the Dutch manner to present, in the former, crowds in the pursuit of greed, and, in the latter, the popularity of meretricious foreign entertainment, like masquerades, harlequin plays, and Italian operas, while English classics are carted away as waste paper. His small illustrations to Samuel Butler's mock-heroic Hudibras, published in 1726 but executed earlier (ibid., nos. 5–21), led to an ambitious project to publish by subscription, through the publisher Philip Overton, twelve large plates, also in illustration of Hudibras (ibid., nos. 82–93), unequivocally of his own invention, with monumental figures and learned allusions to Italian art.
The large Hudibras series was a work of high ambition, and it reflects an awareness of the wider artistic world. Hogarth claimed later that even as an apprentice 'the painting of St Pauls and gree[n]wich hospital … were during this time runing in my head' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 205), referring here to the enormous schemes for the decoration of the dome of St Paul's and for the Greenwich Hospital by the English-born painter Sir James Thornhill, who held the office of sergeant-painter to the king. Hogarth had enrolled at the St Martin's Lane Academy, London, in 1720, and at the drawing school run by Thornhill in Covent Garden probably shortly after its opening in November 1724. It is possible that Masquerades and Operas was already an attempt to side with Thornhill in his struggles with the leaders of the new taste for Palladian architecture, the earl of Burlington and the painter William Kent, for the latter is lampooned by being placed on top of a pediment with figures of Michelangelo and Raphael in adoration beneath.
Beginnings as a painter
Hogarth must have received some kind of instruction from Thornhill in the mechanics of painting; his broad handling of the brush and use of colour make his debt clear. Very few works can be attributed confidently to Hogarth before 1728, when he made the first versions of his painting of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, first performed that year. The first three versions, probably all finished before the end of 1729 (Birmingham City Art Gallery; priv. coll.; National Gallery of Art, Washington), reveal him as a painter of much ingenuity, but the final two, of 1729–31 (Yale U. CBA; Tate collection) are of real accomplishment. They exhibit a satirical resonance and topicality beyond Gay's opera by incorporating into the composition recognizable members of the fashionable audience. On the basis of this success he moved into the demanding genre of the conversation piece, which required delicacy of touch, a mastery of elegant gesture, and an ability to set figures in a convincing space. It is scarcely credible that an artist could have mastered such a specialized field so quickly, but Hogarth's ability was immediately noted by the astute chronicler George Vertue, who remarked on the painting of the Wollaston family (1730; priv. coll., on loan to Leicester Art Gallery) that 'this is really a most excellent work containing the true likeness of the persons, shape, aire & dress—well disposd, genteel, agreeable—& freely painted & the composition great variety & Nature' (Vertue, Note books, 3.46). Hogarth added to his skills an entrée into a wider world by marrying Thornhill's daughter, Jane (c.1709–1789), on 23 March 1729, reputedly after an elopement. Thornhill as well as a painter was member of parliament for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, and a supporter of the Walpole government.
Hogarth quickly exploited his new family connections, and it was probably through Thornhill that he obtained a commission in 1729 for a painting of the parliamentary inquiry, led by James Oglethorpe, into conditions in the Fleet and other prisons (NPG). Hogarth and Thornhill were friendly with John Huggins, who had sold the patent of the Fleet as late as August 1728 to his deputy, Thomas Bambridge. It is possible that the bestial characterization of Bambridge, also evident in the oil sketch in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, is evidence of an attempt by Hogarth to exonerate Huggins. Several of those depicted in the painting became patrons of Hogarth; Viscount Malpas, later earl of Cholmondeley, Sir Robert Walpole's son-in-law, commissioned a family conversation (1732; Houghton Hall, Norfolk), and the large painting of a performance of Dryden's The Indian Emperor, or, The Conquest of Mexico (priv. coll.) is evidence of the artist's connections, for it takes place in the house of John Conduitt, the master of the Royal Mint in succession to Isaac Newton, in the presence of younger members of the royal family. Hogarth's circle of patrons was largely, though not exclusively, within the court or government; he was conspicuously ignored by landowning families influenced by the Burlington circle. Vertue reports that the earl of Burlington used his influence to deprive Thornhill of commissions, and his son-in-law of the privilege of painting the royal family:
he had some time ago begun a picture of all the Royal family in one peice by order the Sketch being made. & the P. William the Duke had sat to him for one. This also has been stopt. So that he can't proceed.Vertue, Note books, 3.68
The first ‘modern moral subjects’: A Harlot's Progress and A Rake's Progress
By the early 1730s Hogarth had none the less achieved a solid position in the world. In addition to a thriving practice as a painter of portrait groups he had some success with humorous satirical paintings, such as The Denunciation (National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin) and The Christening (priv. coll.), both c.1729, and amorous scenes, such as the two versions of Before and After (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, and Getty Museum, Malibu). His studio was in Covent Garden before he moved to Leicester Fields in 1733; it was something of a meeting-place for men about town, and he clearly used them as an audience to try out different kinds of painting. He was tiring of conversation pictures, for 'that manner of Painting was not sufficiently paid to do every thing my family requird' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 216). Vertue tells us that he 'began a small picture of a common harlot, supposd to dwell in drewry lane. Just riseing about noon out of bed … this whore's desabillé careless and a pretty Countenance & air' (Vertue, Note books, 3.58). In discussion with visitors to the studio
some advisd him to make another. to it as a pair. which he did. then other thoughts encreas'd, & multiplyd by his fruitfull invention. till he made six. different subjects which he painted so naturally … that it drew every body to see them.ibid.,
Hogarth's high-minded version in retrospect of this momentous change in direction was that he 'turn[ed] my thoughts to still a more new way of proceeding, viz painting and Engraving moder[n] moral Subject[s] a Field unbroke up in any Country or any age' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 216).
By ‘modern moral subjects’ Hogarth meant pictorial narratives of contemporary-life subjects in series. The first, A Harlot's Progress, was made up of six paintings (des. in a fire at Fonthill Abbey in 1755), and the engravings (Paulson, Graphic Works, nos. 121–6) were published initially by subscription in April 1732. A Harlot's Progress tells the sordid story of a country girl, M. (for Mary or Moll) Hackabout, who arrives in Cheapside in London on the York stage and is procured for the notorious Colonel Charteris (scene 1), becomes the mistress of a Jew (scene 2), then a Drury Lane prostitute (scene 3), and after a spell in Bridewell (scene 4), dies of syphilis in a miserable hovel (scene 5), and is mourned insincerely by her fellow harlots (scene 6). The horror and squalor of the story are mitigated by a fascinating profusion of incident, topical references, and satirical humour directed towards clergymen, moral crusaders like Sir John Gonson, doctors, and prostitutes themselves, heedless of their fate. The story is told as if each painting or engraving is the act of a play or chapter in a novel. No verbal narrative is given even on the engravings, though verbal signs in the form of notices and discarded letters and wrappers clarify the action in most scenes. Almost every scene has a precise location so that one could plot the episodes of the harlot's rise and fall on a map of London. The success of the engravings was extraordinary, and it can be measured as much in the piracies and adaptations, in the form of plays, pamphlets, fans, and china, as in the number of impressions sold. According to Vertue:
daily Subscriptions came in, in fifty or a hundred pounds in a Week—there being no day but persons of fashion and Artists came to see these pictures … before a twelve month came about whilst these plates were engraving he had in his Subscription. between 14 or fifteen hundred.Vertue, Note books, 3.58
Hogarth, now a celebrity, published in March 1733 an engraving that was imitated more than any other of his prints: Midnight Modern Conversation (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 128), a rowdy drinking scene whose moralizing caption did nothing to discourage its use on tankards and punchbowls as a celebration of male conviviality. At the same time he was working on a second series, A Rake's Progress (ibid., nos. 132–9), that surpassed even the success of its predecessor. The series of eight paintings (Sir John Soane's Museum, London) was probably completed by the middle of 1734, but the artist delayed publication of the engravings, for which he was assisted by the French engraver Louis Gerard Scotin, to allow for an act of parliament to protect his copyright, that he had initiated through well-placed friends, to become law on 25 June 1735. This was the Act for the Encouragement of the Arts of Designing, Engraving, Etching &c., usually known as Hogarth's Act, which vested the copyright of engravings in their artists rather than their publishers, forbidding unauthorized copies for a period of fourteen years. Because of the delay piracies actually came out before the publication of A Rake's Progress, and the effect of the act was to deter slavish copies, but not in the end to prevent imitations, of which there were a great many.
The rake, Tom Rakewell, is a male counterpart of the harlot, but as the son of a miserly financier he is a member of the middling orders, pursuing social advancement with as much vigour as he pursues sensual pleasure. His career is a vehicle for satirizing the mores of the ‘great’ he seeks to emulate. These are not the men of virtue who live up to the ideals of their station in life, but those who use wealth and social position for selfish ends. In the first scene, on the basis of the fortune he inherits, he repudiates his pregnant fiancée, Sarah Young, to set himself up in a grand house in the West End of London. He then receives petitioners at a levee, ranging from an opera composer and a dancing-master to a jockey and bodyguard, as a line of others queue for an audience (scene 2). He spends a riotous evening in a sordid brothel in Drury Lane, where he is deftly deprived of his watch by a prostitute (scene 3). While being carried in a sedan chair towards a royal reception at St James's Palace he is arrested for debt, only saved by the fortuitous arrival of Sarah Young, who offers her savings (scene 4). The remaining four scenes show the rake's downward descent. He attempts vainly to regain his fortune by marrying a rich, deformed heiress (scene 5), and by gambling at table (scene 6), but he is confined to the Fleet prison, now losing his sanity (scene 7), ending his days in Bedlam among richly characterized lunatics, lamented only by Sarah Young (scene 8).
After the Rake: new challenges
The richness of content and wit of A Rake's Progress surpassed even A Harlot's Progress, confirming Hogarth's fame, and increasing his fortune. He was now virtually independent of the market place he had so astutely exploited, in a position to take on other challenges. His first concern seems to have been to take on the mantle of Sir James Thornhill, who had died on 4 May 1734. By a masterly stroke he was granted a large-scale wall-painting commission at St Bartholomew's Hospital, becoming a governor, by offering to paint free of charge two walls in the entrance hall. These had already been assigned to the gifted Venetian painter Jacopo Amigoni, a painter who had taken away a major commission from Thornhill at Moor Park, Hertfordshire. Hogarth thus gained a major public place for his first attempt at history painting, avenged his late father-in-law, and established himself as a gentleman of public spirit. This manoeuvre gave rise to Vertue's famous remark of Hogarth, 'a good Front and a Scheemist' (Vertue, Note books, 3.78), but it also left him with having to paint two immense surfaces with biblical scenes, The Good Samaritan and The Pool of Bethesda (still in situ), in a genre in which he was virtually untrained. The result is wonderful and absurd in equal measure; the figure of Christ in The Pool of Bethesda is inept, but the painting is redeemed by the varied group of the sick and the lame waiting to be cured. Though Vertue tells us that 'as to this great work of painting it is by every one judged to be more than coud be expected of him', it left him exposed to ridicule in later life, providing evidence that he was ignorant of painting's capacity to elevate the mind.
Two projects of the late 1730s built as much on the painting Southwark Fair (1733; priv. coll.) and its engraving (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 131) as on the ‘modern moral subjects’. Southwark Fair presents a dense panorama of London street life, contrasting the insubstantial, precarious, and idealized life of the theatre with the equally theatrical life of the streets. This concern with illusion and reality led towards two projects, both published at the same time in May 1738: the Times of Day series of four paintings (Morning and Night, Upton House, Warwickshire; and Noon and Evening, priv. coll.) and engravings (ibid., nos. 146–9), for which Hogarth had the help of the French engraver Bernard Baron, and the painting (des. in a fire, 1874) and engraving Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn (ibid., no. 150). As a meditation on the street life of London, The Times of Day can be related to such precedents as John Gay's Trivia, or, The Art of Walking the Streets of London (1716). The four scenes Morning, Noon, Evening, and Night are governed neither by a narrative nor common characters; nor are they set in one part of London. The action takes place respectively in Covent Garden, the vicinity of St Giles-in-the-Fields, Sadler's Wells, and Charing Cross. Nor are they confined to one season; Morning takes place on a winter's day, Evening on a warm summer's evening. They are unified by the contrast of order and disorder in urban life, carefully staged by the artist through visual anecdotes. Each scene is animated by accidental conjunctions, some setting off a change of consequences, comic and pathetic. Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn plays humorously upon the discomforts of a group of female players forced to prepare for a rural performance in a barn strewn with stage machinery and props. It offers a profound meditation upon the disjunction between the mundanity of real life and the mythological subject of the play, The Devil to Pay in Heaven, which requires the actresses to play Olympian gods and goddesses.
Portrait painting: an English grand manner
Hogarth entered the field of individual portraiture in the late 1730s and early 1740s. His portraits of this period deliberately challenge the French grand-manner portrait and those of Thomas Hudson, but he never became a professional in the sense of developing a large studio and using drapery painters. Hogarth's decision to take up grand-manner portraiture was provoked by the success of the French painter J. B. Van Loo, who arrived in London in late 1737. According to Vertue 'the English painters have great uneasines[s] it has much blemishd their reputation—and business' (Vertue, Note books, 3.84). Hogarth's reply in effect was the magnificent portrait of Captain Coram, painted in 1740 for the Foundling Hospital (Foundling Hospital, London). Though often seen as essentially English, it derives from French examples, combining a composition derived from Hyacinthe Rigaud's portrait of Samuel Bernard (Bindman, Hogarth, fig. 102) which Hogarth would have known from the 1729 engraving, with the surface vitality of Van Loo. The success of the portrait seems to have inspired Hogarth to take on more such commissions, mainly from friends. He applied the grand manner unusually to a female sitter, in the three-quarter length of Mary Edwards (1742; Frick collection, New York). She is shown as a great chatelaine, the speech at her right elbow by Queen Elizabeth I, the busts of the latter and King Alfred in the background, the faithful dog and her direct gaze emphasizing her regal stout-heartedness. Other portraits of this period combine the monumental with the genial, and some have a distinctively demotic rather than aristocratic character, as if Hogarth were developing an alternative mode from Van Dyck and French portrait painters. The portraits of George Arnold (c.1740; Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge) and, curiously, the portrait of William Cavendish, fourth duke of Devonshire (1741; Yale U. CBA), among a number of others, are notable for their direct gaze and vivid expression. He was also capable of bestowing a papal dignity on two prominent ecclesiastics: Benjamin Hoadly, bishop of Winchester (1741), and Thomas Herring, archbishop of Canterbury (1744–7) (both Tate collection). Hogarth made a number of portraits of children in this period, most notably the large group of the Graham children (1742; National Gallery, London). It is a conversation piece on a grand scale, the fleetingness of childhood suggested by the precarious stability of the composition, the distinctive behaviour of each child according to age, and the rich fabric of allusion to the passing of time.
Other portraits of note are the very large David Garrick as Richard III (1745; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), a history painting with the actor in a famous role, and the later portrait of Frank Matthew Schutz (c.1755–1760; Castle Museum, Norwich), in which the sitter is shown in bed vomiting into a chamber pot, a sign of the life he has given up for marriage. This portrait belongs to a period of return to portraiture, announced in February 1757, as a relief from the rigours of the Election series and dealing with engravers. Though some portraits of this period, like David Garrick and his Wife (1757; Royal Collection), are highly finished, Hogarth aimed also to produce a simplified type of portrait, based on few sittings and minimal trappings, like those of such friends and associates as Samuel Martin (c.1759; Koriyama City Museum of Art, Japan), James Caulfeild, first earl of Charlemont (c.1759; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts), and Henry Fox (1761; priv. coll.). Also probably of this period is the densely painted and firmly characterized group of six heads known, on early but not conclusive authority, as Hogarth's Servants (c.1750–1755; Tate collection). They are 'character heads' made from observation, illustrating different ages, probably intended as studies, of a similar date and purpose to the brilliantly free sketch The Shrimp Girl (National Gallery, London).
‘Comic history painting’ and Marriage a-la-mode
In the late 1730s and early 1740s Hogarth began to present himself as the leader of a national school of painting, speaking out for British artists against the assumption of connoisseurs whose taste had been formed on the grand tour that only paintings by the great Italian masters were worthy of serious consideration. Under the name Britophil, Hogarth wrote to the St James's Evening Post of 7–9 June 1737 defending Thornhill and attacking the importing of 'shiploads of dead Christs, Holy Families, Madona's, and other dismal dark subjects, neither entertaining nor ornamental'. His claims to a national role were indirectly bolstered by the playwright and novelist Henry Fielding, who in the preface to Joseph Andrews of 1742 paid Hogarth the singular compliment of claiming his art to be the basis of his own theory of the novel and its purposes, arguing that his moral engravings were 'calculated more to serve the Cause of Virtue, and for the preservation of Mankind, than all the Folios of Morality which have ever been written'. This endorsement was important in providing a theoretical underpinning for Hogarth's enterprise. Fielding's further claim that Hogarth was a 'Comic History Painter', rather than a practitioner of 'Caricatura' or burlesque, defined his art as socially useful, distinctively English, and with a wide popular appeal.
In 1743 Hogarth completed a new and more accomplished series of ‘modern moral subjects’, Marriage a-la-mode, consisting of six paintings (National Gallery, London), engraved entirely by French engravers, whom Hogarth had recruited after his first visit to Paris in 1743, and published on 1 April 1745 (Paulson, Graphic Works, nos. 158–63). Hogarth claimed in a newspaper advertisement that the theme was 'a Variety of Modern Occurrences in High-Life', and that he had taken pains to avoid 'the least Objection to the Decency or elegancy of the whole work' (ibid., 114). The paintings are indeed elegant in composition, painterly in handling and in the interaction of the figures, but this elegance is rendered superficial by the moral hypocrisy of those who pursue the high life for its own sake, and their heedlessness towards those who fall victim to it, like the earl's son and merchant's daughter, the subject of the original marriage agreement. This takes place in the old master-bedecked house in the West End of the elderly earl of Squander, himself the very picture of aristocratic arrogance and fecklessness, in debt from building a preposterous double-porticoed Palladian town house (probably a stroke at the earl of Burlington) (scene 1). The merchant is equally culpable, seeking to gain social advancement by buying it rather than earning it by admirable conduct. Their children, the young viscount and the merchant's daughter, studiously ignore each other, the former an overdressed, self-admiring fop, the latter, weeping and weak-willed, open to the covert courtship of the lawyer Silvertongue. The story is of the mutual alienation of the couple, predetermined by the circumstances of their marriage, and their separate paths to destruction, as they each pursue the characteristic vices of their social class. The young viscount, who becomes an earl on the death of his father, pursues sexual dissipation (scenes 2 and 3), while the new countess acts out the role of a great lady, holding a levee in the French manner (scene 4), entertaining an even more grotesque company of hangers-on than the rake, and arranging an assignation with Silvertongue. The earl dies in a duel after surprising the lovers in a private room in a bagnio in Covent Garden, but the countess, surprisingly but movingly, stays with her dying husband rather than fleeing with her lover out of the window (scene 5). Her own end is depicted in the last scene (scene 6), where she dies in her father's house in the City, within sight of London Bridge. This house, by contrast with the opulence of the earl's West End mansion, is a bare, miserly dwelling with vulgar Dutch paintings on the wall, of the kind Hogarth despised as much as the earl's Italian pictures.
Contrasting directions: history painting and 'the lower Class of People'
It is perhaps not surprising that the posthumous revival of interest in Hogarth as a painter rather than an engraver should date from William Hazlitt's first opportunity to study the Marriage a-la-mode paintings at the British Institution exhibition in 1814. They are astonishing in the fluid confidence of their brushwork; they were clearly intended to stand in their own right as paintings, and not just act as vehicles for engraving. A similarly confident handling of paint can be found in Moses Brought before Pharaoh's Daughter (1746; Foundling Hospital), one of a set of four paintings for the Council Room of the Foundling Hospital, the others being by Francis Hayman, Joseph Highmore, and James Wills. The Foundling Hospital was founded by Captain Thomas Coram to rescue and train for military and domestic service, and manufacturing, children abandoned on the streets of London. Hogarth was involved in the hospital from the beginning, painting Captain Coram (see above), and, realizing the hospital's potential as a public exhibiting space, he involved other artists in the venture. By the end of the decade it was filled with portraits, landscape paintings, and sculpture by most of the best artists of the time: Thomas Gainsborough, Thomas Hudson, Allan Ramsay, Joshua Reynolds, John Michael Rysbrack, and Richard Wilson.
The success of Moses Brought before Pharaoh's Daughter may have emboldened Hogarth to take on a more ambitious biblical subject in Paul before Felix (1748), for Lincoln's Inn. Such a subject invited comparison not with Thornhill or visiting Italian painters but with Raphael, whose cartoons, then at Hampton Court, especially St Paul Preaching at Athens, provided the ultimate challenge to Hogarth's prowess in the elevated style. In the event the monumental forms of Hogarth's painting are laboured and the faces approach caricature, but the drama and the overall colour harmony make it a convincing performance. Unfortunately Hogarth left himself open to ridicule by issuing in May 1751 a ticket for the engraving illustrated by a coarse and amusing etched parody of the subject, entitled Paul before Felix Burlesqued (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 191), with the caption 'Design'd and scratch'd in the true Dutch taste', and in the third state, 'in the rediculous manner of Rembrandt'. His intention was to contrast the nobility of his own painting with what a Dutch artist might have made of the subject, but it left satirists an opening to suggest that the parody represented the ‘real’ Hogarth.
In 1747 Hogarth published a series of twelve engravings, Industry and Idleness (Paulson, Graphic Works, nos. 168–79), based not on paintings but on drawings (all are in the British Museum), in a deliberately simplified style to appeal to apprentices and the poor in general. The series tells the parallel stories of two apprentices, one insufferably virtuous and ambitious called Francis Goodchild, who works hard, marries his master's daughter, and rises to be lord mayor of London. The other, the dissolute Tom Idle, gambles, blasphemes, and steals his way to the hangman's noose at Tyburn. Industry and Idleness was the first set of prints directed not primarily towards amateur collectors (to whom he also made them available), but towards the direct improvement of those contemplating them. In February 1751 Hogarth issued Beer Street and Gin Lane (ibid., nos. 185–6) and The Four Stages of Cruelty (ibid., nos. 187–90), his ambitions for which are clearly stated in the General Advertiser: 'As the Subjects of those Prints are calculated to reform some reigning Vices peculiar to the lower Class of People in hopes to render them of more extensive Use, the Author has published them in the cheapest Manner possible.' Beer Street and Gin Lane were a response to Henry Fielding's An Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase of Robbers, published in January 1751, and were probably issued in support of the campaign for the imposition of the Gin Act, which came into force in the summer of 1751. The Four Stages of Cruelty were, in Hogarth's words, 'done in hopes of preventing in some degree that cruel treatment of poor Animals which makes the streets of London more disagreable to the human mind, than any thing what ever' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 226). The earnestness of his desire that this series should reach a public beyond even the engravings, which in any case cost 1s., and an extra 6d. if they were on fine paper, is confirmed by his attempt to produce larger woodcut versions, cut by J. Bell. In the end only the final two of the series, Cruelty in Perfection and The Reward of Cruelty appeared in that form, and it is probable that the scheme was abandoned perhaps because of technical difficulties.
The state of the nation: The March to Finchley and the Election series
In 1750 Hogarth arranged for the Foundling Hospital to receive his painting The March to Finchley (Foundling Hospital, London), by giving it the unsold tickets from a lottery he had set up with the painting as a prize, probably to stimulate interest in the engraving, published in December 1750 (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 184). The March to Finchley, probably painted 1749–50, is a historical picture looking back to the events of the Scottish invasion of 1745–6, when the Pretender's (James Stuart's) army was feared to be in danger of threatening London, probably stimulated by debates on proposals to reform the army at the end of the decade. The relentlessly dissolute behaviour of the soldiery in the foreground, by contrast with a disciplined troop in the middle distance, suggests a degraded and directionless population beyond rational control. The central figure, perhaps meant to represent the nation, is the hapless grenadier in the foreground, beset by two women each demanding his commitment, as has often been pointed out, like Hercules between Vice and Virtue. The woman on the viewer's left, in both painting and engraving, represents nature (she is pregnant), patriotism (she holds a broadside, 'God save our king'), and support for the duke of Cumberland's reforms (she holds a print of him). The older woman to the right threatens him with newspapers, mainly of the opposition; she represents faction or ‘party’. The sordidness of much of the activity, and the underlying political message, sit oddly with the sensuousness of the painterly handling, first evident in Marriage a-la-mode, but here applied to the uniforms of the grenadiers, and to the wittily variegated group of prostitutes leaning out of the windows of the brothel on the right. Hogarth's painting O the Roast Beef of Old England ('The Gate of Calais', 1748; Tate collection) and the engraving from it published in March 1749 (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 180) also reconstruct a recent event, but this time one in Hogarth's own life. In 1748 Hogarth had visited France for a second time and was arrested as a spy while drawing the famous English Gate. He was brought before the commandant but soon released; in the words of his autobiography 'it was Judged necessary only to confine me to my lodging till the wind changed for our coming away to England where I no sooner arrived but set about the Picture' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 228). The painting dramatizes the event by playing with gross humour on contemptuous English assumptions about the French and Jacobites, from the ignorant poissardes on the left, the starving soldiers on either side, the corpulent monk tasting the fat on the enormous joint being carried to the English hostelry by a skinny servant, the priests through the gate carrying out superstitious rites, to the miserable Scottish soldier freezing in his kilt. Hogarth is seen before the gate drawing, as a disembodied hand appears on his shoulder. He later summed up his perception of France as 'A farcical pomp of war, parade of riligion and Bustle with little with very little bussiness in short poverty slavery and Insolence with an affectation of politeness' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 227).
Despite references to the notorious Oxfordshire election of 1754, Hogarth's paintings are more than a conventional exposure of current corruption. The Election series of four paintings (Sir John Soane's Museum), begun in 1753–4 and engraved in 1754–8 (Paulson, Graphic Works, nos. 198–201), like The March to Finchley, also comments on the state of the nation. The first scene, An Election Entertainment, the most traditional in content, shows the two candidates involved in bribing the rapacious and violent electorate. Again the brilliant handling of paint and the radiant colour effects sit oddly with the rumbustious goings-on. The second scene, Canvassing for Votes, is set in a village with a tory inn, the Royal Oak, in the foreground, and a whig tavern, The Crown, in the background. In front of the Royal Oak a bemused farmer is faced with a choice between two offers of money for his vote by the hosts of the two rival taverns, while two old seamen, true patriots, relive the naval victory of Portobello in 1739. The third scene, The Polling, centres on the vote itself, with a varied collection of derelicts, led by an old soldier taking the oath with his hook, waiting to cast their doubtful votes. The fourth scene, Chairing the Member, shows the successful candidate carried aloft, a goose flying over his head, but far from being a real triumph, the human edifice supporting him is about to topple over, as a family of pigs runs through the procession. The series betrays a deep cynicism about the electoral process, and the choices available to the voters, but not about government itself; three of the engravings are dedicated to leading ‘old corps’ whigs, associated with the late prime minister Sir Robert Walpole: Henry Fox, Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, and Sir Edward Walpole, and the fourth to George Hay, a commissioner of the Admiralty, the last a close friend.
While working on the Election prints Hogarth received in May 1755 his largest commission for a religious painting, the altarpiece for the church of St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, for which he was paid a fee of £525. The final work, painted in 1756, is an astonishing feat, consisting of a triptych 17 feet in height, with a central panel, The Ascension, and side panels, The Sealing of the Sepulchre and The Three Marys Visiting the Sepulchre. The grandeur of the figures matches the scale, and there are brilliant and surprising light effects in the central panel that suggest that Hogarth had learned much from Venetian artists resident in England.
Reflecting on art: The Analysis of Beauty
Fielding's characterization in 1742 of Hogarth as a comic history painter had encouraged the artist to reflect on the nature of his own art and art in general. These reflections, aided by discussion with philosophical friends like Dr Thomas Morell, were to culminate in the treatise The Analysis of Beauty, published in 1753, but in gestation at least from the mid-1740s. The print Characters and Caricaturas, published in April 1743 (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 156), claimed, with reference to Fielding's preface to Joseph Andrews, that the figures in his paintings and engravings represented human character in its fullness, rather than the comic exaggeration of a single feature in caricature, now a fashionable pursuit among those who had travelled in Italy. The self-portrait painting The Painter and his Pug (1745; Tate collection), engraved in 1749 as Gulielmus Hogarth (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 181), attempts to create an air of paradox and mystery around Hogarth's increasingly complex ambitions. He presents himself with pugnacious directness, his own pug reinforcing his challenge to French elegance and artificiality. But the directness is undermined by the fact that the portrait is itself a painting within the painting. As a still life the canvas forms part of an allegory of Hogarth's own intellectual ancestry, for the portrait rests (in the painting not in the engraving where the books are not identified) on three books, by Shakespeare, Milton, and Swift. On the left-hand side the palette labelled 'The Line of Beauty and of Grace' has a curved line that is given physical substance by a shadow. According to the preface to The Analysis of Beauty this line was there to excite curiosity:
The bait soon took; and no Egyptian hierogliphic ever amused more than it did for a time, painters and sculptors came to me to know the meaning of it, being as much puzzled with it as other people, till it came to have some explanation.p. x
The explanation was finally given in The Analysis of Beauty, a volume of 153 pages, published in 1753, accompanied by two large engraved plates of illustrations (Paulson, Graphic Works, nos. 195–6), that Hogarth wrote with the help of Dr Morell and other friends. The book deliberately eschews the 'more beaten path of moral beauty' (p. iv), concerning itself with what the eye sees and how this can be reduced to methodical principles. It applies empirical study to issues that have been 'over-born by pompous terms of art' (p. 3), and is best understood as an investigation into what 'seem[s] most to please and entertain the eye' (p. 12). It is a deliberate challenge to the idealism of academic theory, opposing nature against art as the true standard of beauty, present experience against antiquity, and variety against symmetry. Much of the criticism that the volume attracted, along with much admiration, centred on Hogarth's claim at the beginning that the ‘Line of Beauty’ was an underlying and invariable form that defined beauty, but it can be argued in his defence that it is essentially an exemplification of the qualities of visual beauty: fitness, variety, intricacy, and quantity. Though claiming philosophical and scientific authority, the volume none the less manages to retain, especially in the two plates of illustrations, the droll humour and unexpected observations of Hogarth's visual work. The ‘Line of Beauty’ is illustrated by the forms of chair legs, corsets, the figure of Antinous contrasted with a stiff-backed dancing-master, and, in its absence, in the inelegant dancers at a country ball.
Hogarth under attack: Sandby and Reynolds
The quality of Hogarth's argument, recognized by Edmund Burke and others, did not prevent scurrilous attacks on The Analysis. There was no organized campaign, but Hogarth and The Analysis became the target of a series of eight little-known but brilliant and intricate caricatures by the young landscape painter Paul Sandby, produced between December 1753 and April 1754 (Bindman, Hogarth and his Times, nos. 103–9). Sandby's vehemence was focused on Hogarth's rejection of the idea of an artists' academy, the alleged pretentiousness and absurdity of The Analysis, and the artist's hubris in attempting the grand manner in such paintings as Paul before Felix. Despite Hogarth's persistent attempts to dissociate his art from ‘low’ Dutch painting, Sandby makes claims of Hogarth's essential Dutchness, exemplified by the unfortunate subscription ticket for Paul before Felix, which appears, itself parodied, in more than one of the satires. Though a household name whose images were frequently cited approvingly by novelists and poets, Hogarth now found himself increasingly in a world in which satire was no longer a dominant literary form, yet he himself was frequently the object of satire. With the return of Joshua Reynolds from Italy in 1748 a new generation of artists was emerging who looked forward to an academy on continental lines, saw Italy as an English artist's true university, and England itself as artistically provincial, though few artists were without some admiration and gratitude for Hogarth's achievement. Reynolds's three articles in Samuel Johnson's The Idler for the months of September to November 1759 reasserted 'the invariable, the great and general ideas which are fixed and inherent in universal nature' against 'a servile attention to minute exactness' (Reynolds, The Idler, 79, 20 Oct 1759). The latter phrase was hardly a fair account of Hogarth's style, but Reynolds was no more inclined than Sandby to absolve Hogarth from ‘Dutchness’.
If Hogarth's critical position was under threat in the later 1750s, his standing at court was consolidated by his appointment on 6 July 1757, shortly before the death of his brother-in-law John Thornhill, to the post of sergeant-painter to the king. Hogarth received this office through the favour of the lord chamberlain, the duke of Devonshire, whose portrait he had painted (see above), and it was worth about £200 per annum. He commemorated this event by an engraving, captioned Wm. Hogarth Serjeant Painter to his Majesty (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 204), taken from a small painting (NPG). This shows him painting the comic muse on a canvas, a copy of The Analysis of Beauty leaning casually against a leg of the easel. The apparent self-satisfaction of the portrait is belied by the X-ray of the painting, which has in the foreground a pug cocking his leg over a pile of framed old master paintings. Hogarth painted this out, but it is indicative of his sensitivity in the face of criticism. By the late 1750s he appeared to be associated with an older political and religious order; the governmental oligarchy rather than the emergent populism of the City, and latitudinarian bishops rather than the Methodist-inspired clergy, whom he satirized with ferocity in what is perhaps his most elaborate satire, Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism, published in April 1762 (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 210 2), a reworking of Enthusiasm Delineated of c.1760 (ibid., no. 210 1), known in only two impressions (BM and Achenbach Foundation, San Francisco).
The artist embattled: the Sigismunda affair
Hogarth's last years from the late 1750s until his death in 1764 were dominated by a series of self-generated mishaps, followed by painful self-justification, in which he rehearsed his sense of frustration at the ascendancy of his opponents. Yet his increasing paranoia did not affect adversely the quality of imagination and execution in his paintings. Perhaps the defining incident of his last years was the affair of the paintings of The Lady's Last Stake (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo) and Sigismunda Mourning over the Heart of Guiscardo (Tate collection). James Caulfeild, first earl of Charlemont, commissioned from him in 1758–9 a painting in the comic history mode, the subject being, in Hogarth's words, 'a virtuous married lady that had lost all at cards to a young officer, wavering at his suit whether she should part with her Honr. or no to regain the Loss which was offerd to her' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 219). The painting shows the officer's moment of triumph, but leaves her choice unresolved, though she appears to lean slightly in the direction of the eager young officer. It is painted with all the solidity and warmth of colouring of Hogarth's late manner, and its sophisticated wit understandably delighted its patron. Charlemont then showed it proudly to Sir Richard Grosvenor, who asked Hogarth for a similar work. Hogarth, though reluctant, agreed because Grosvenor being 'infinitely Rich Prest me with more vehimence to do what subject I would, upon the same terms much against my inclination' (ibid., 220). However, Hogarth perversely produced not a comic but a tragic history painting, Sigismunda Mourning over the Heart of Guiscardo, based upon a story in Boccaccio, translated by Dryden, of a king's daughter who falls in love with a family retainer. The king showed his disapproval by having the retainer killed and his heart sent to his daughter, who is seen in the painting holding the object in a goblet. The subject referred to a painting, then attributed to Correggio but now to Francesco Furini (Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery), that had sold at the Sir Luke Schaub sale on 26 April 1758, for what Hogarth believed to be an absurdly high price of £404. Sigismunda was rejected by Grosvenor, and the picture, partly because of Hogarth's fierce defensiveness, was subjected to much ridicule at the time. Horace Walpole described it as 'a maudlin whore tearing off the trinkets that her keeper had given her, to fling at his head' (Paulson, Hogarth, 3.325). It remained notorious long after Hogarth's death, but, despite elements of bathos and the unfortunate presence of the heart, it is a serious attempt to stimulate the spectator's empathetic response; the artist claimed that on seeing it 'Peoples heart[s] were as easily touchd as I have seen them at a Tragedy' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 220).
For Hogarth 'the anxiety … which attended this affair coming at a time when perhaps nature rather wants a more quiet life … brought on an Illness which continued a year' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 220–21). Horace Walpole visited the artist in his studio in May 1761 and finding him 'too wild', cast doubts on his sanity. Hogarth was particularly worried that Walpole, working on Anecdotes of Painting in England, might 'say anything against' Sir James Thornhill. Hogarth revealed to Walpole that he was working on a book himself, which he describes as 'a critical work … an apology for painters', intended as 'a Supplement to my Analysis' (Paulson, Hogarth, 3.326). The text of the 'apology for painters' has been pieced together from Hogarth's manuscripts in the British Library (Kitson), but it was in a far from publishable state when Hogarth left it. Among other things it states the case against the idea of an academy, on the grounds that it would inevitably base its teaching on sterile copying. The neglect of contemporary artists is now blamed more on trading interests than aristocratic connoisseurs, but he continues to assert the authority of the artist over the amateur as a judge of art.
The wrong politics: Hogarth on the defensive
The opposition to trading interests was probably connected with Hogarth's association with the Society of Artists, in opposition to the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (the Society of Arts), which hosted art exhibitions in April 1760 and 1761. The latter exhibition was followed by the Society of Artists exhibition on 9 May, the catalogue of which was adorned by two designs by Hogarth, engraved by Grignion (Paulson, Graphic Works, nos. 236–7). One shows a monkey dressed as a connoisseur watering the stumps of dead trees, signifying the old masters; the other shows healthy plants watered by Britannia from a fountain presided over by the new king, George III. Hogarth's vigorous defence of English art had brought him allies as well as opponents, and he could count on the support at this time of the actor David Garrick, the playwright George Colman, and the journalist Bonnell Thornton. Thornton's efforts in particular, and his interest in popular culture as a distinctive manifestation of English culture, led to the opening on 22 April 1762 of the Sign Painters' Exhibition, partly 'designed as a ridicule on the Exhibitions of the Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, &c. and of other Artists' (Paulson, Hogarth, 3.353). Hogarth was assumed by satirists to have been a prime mover, and many works in the exhibition make specific reference to motifs in his prints, but it is not certain that he was directly involved, or that any of his own work was exhibited.
Hogarth, unlike many of his peers, was unmoved by the ‘new politics’ of William Pitt and later of John Wilkes, which were expansionist, warlike, populist, and anti-court. Instead he drew closer to the court and to the king's unpopular adviser, the earl of Bute, even making an unexpected return to party political satire by issuing ‘The Times’, pl. I (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 211) in September 1762, followed by ‘The Times’, pl. 2, which was not issued in Hogarth's lifetime (ibid., no. 212). Hogarth had made a number of overtly political satires in the 1720s, but he seems pointedly to avoid them in the next decade, refusing, for example, to produce a ‘Robin's progress’ to satirize Sir Robert Walpole. There are undeniable political and national allusions in The March to Finchley and the Election series, but ‘The Times’, pl. I adopts specific party positions and alludes to immediate events and personalities. Hogarth claimed that he made the print to
stop a gap in my income this produce[d] the Print call the Times the subject of which tended to Peace and unanimity and so put the opposers of this humane purpose in a light which gave offence to the Fomenters of distruction in the minds of the people.Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 221
It was an answer to an anonymous print, John Bull's House Sett in Flames (impression in the British Museum), and it shows Pitt fanning the flames of the war, and the government trying to put out the fire. Pitt is shown as a figure on stilts with bellows, in the first two states as Henry VIII, adored by the aldermen and mob of the City of London. Revealing his political colours in that way was extremely rash; it led to a breach with John Wilkes, who had been a friend, as well as with the poet Charles Churchill. Wilkes had established the anti-government periodical, the ironically titled North Briton, with the particular intention of targeting Bute. On hearing of Hogarth's intention to publish ‘The Times’, pl. I, he remonstrated unsuccessfully with the artist, whose allegiance to the court evidently surprised him.
'A feeling mind': retaliation, despair, and death
Taking on Wilkes and Churchill was bound to invite retaliation, and David Garrick pleaded with Churchill not to reply for fear of Hogarth's fragile state of mind (Paulson, Hogarth, 3.384). Wilkes's retaliation took the form of a long essay, published on 25 December 1762, which took up the whole of no. 17 of the North Briton. It was a devastating attack, all the more effective for its cool tone and pretended air of solicitude. It makes the point, by then commonplace, that Hogarth's gifts were only in treating of vice, or what Wilkes calls 'gibbeting in colours', because he is incapable of depicting virtue. Wilkes sneers at his vanity, and his acceptance of a place at court, dwelling at length on the pretentiousness of Sigismunda and his dismissal of the old masters. Hogarth is above all self-centred and greedy: 'Gain and vanity have steered his light bark quite thro' life. He has never been consistent, but to those two principles.' He has behaved disgracefully to his fellow artists, claiming that 'There is at this hour scarcely a single man of any degree of merit in his own profession, with whom he does not hold a professed enmity.' Hogarth was by now seriously ill, indeed widely believed to be dying, and his account of the affair in his 'Autobiographical notes', written shortly afterwards, could not be more poignant: 'being at that time at my worst in a kind of slow feaver, it could not but hurt … a feeling mind' (p. 221). However, he recovered sufficiently to take revenge. After Wilkes published no. 45 of the North Briton in April 1763, he was arrested for attacking the king's speech. Hogarth went to Westminster Hall and drew him during the hearing that culminated in acquittal; in Wilkes's words 'the painter was wholly employed in caricaturing the person of the man, while all the rest of his fellow citizens were animated in his cause' (Paulson, Hogarth, 3.395). Hogarth's drawing, indented for transfer to the plate, still survives (BM), and the etching he made from it (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 214) is a masterpiece of restrained caricature, 'as like as I could as to feature at the same time some indication of his mind' (Hogarth, Autobiographical notes, 221), suggesting by slight exaggeration Wilkes's leering cynicism. It is also deliberately paired with Hogarth's portrait etching of Lord Lovat, the Jacobite beheaded for treason in 1747 (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 166).
Hogarth's quarrel with Wilkes provoked a flood of hostile caricatures playing on the painter's supposed closeness to the earl of Bute (Bindman, Hogarth and his Times, nos. 119–21). A further blow was the publication at the end of June 1763 of Charles Churchill's Epistle to William Hogarth, though it had nothing like the effect on the artist of Wilkes's attack, and its description of Hogarth's decrepitude excited more sympathy than contempt. Hogarth responded to it by producing a satire of Churchill as a bear, published in August 1763 (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 215), captioned 'The Bruiser, C. Churchill (once the Rev.d!) In the Character of a Modern Hercules, Regaling himself after having Kill'd the Monster Caricatura that so Sorely Gall'd his Virtuos friend the Heaven born Wilkes'. Hogarth made the print by rubbing down the portrait image of the self-portrait plate of 1748, Gulielmus Hogarth (see above), a literal self-effacement that anticipates the alterations he made in 1764 to the other self-portrait print of 1758, Wm. Hogarth Serjeant Painter to his Majesty. He removed the title, replacing it with 'William Hogarth, 1764', and altered the face, replacing the smile with a grave expression.
Hogarth's last print, The bathos, or, Manner of sinking in sublime paintings, inscribed to the dealers in dark pictures (Paulson, Graphic Works, no. 216), designed to 'serve as a Tail-Piece to all the Author's Engraved Works', is a bleak and apocalyptic summation of his sense of personal failure and the failure of human aspirations. In a parody of the language of elevated paintings and grandiose church monuments, an expiring Father Time lies among broken symbols of nature, church, and state, every element referring, often punningly, to the end of all things. A collapsing inn sign for the World's End is adorned with the world in flames, and even Apollo in his chariot falls from the sky. Hogarth's principal concern in his last months was to refresh his copperplates, to bolster his posthumous reputation and produce a continuing income for his widow, and he continued to work on his autobiography. He died in his house in Leicester Fields, during the night of 25–6 October 1764, and was buried in Chiswick churchyard on 2 November. According to Horace Walpole he died of 'a dropsy of his breast' (Walpole, 4.80), but Nichols claimed in later editions of Biographical Anecdotes that he died of 'an aneurism' (Paulson, Hogarth, 3.532). He left his copperplates and properties to his widow, Jane, and she made her living by reprinting from them until her own death in 1789.
Posthumous reputation and afterlife
Hogarth has often been described as the father of British painting, but he was not the first English-born painter of note; William Dobson and his own father-in-law, Sir James Thornhill, could also claim that honour. But his impact on his own time and upon subsequent generations has been overwhelming. His ‘modern moral subjects’, especially A Rake's Progress, have seen numerous adaptations over the last two centuries, in the form of plays, operas, novels, and painted and printed series. He has been frequently celebrated, rightly or wrongly, as archetypally English in the literariness of his imagination, and the coarseness and directness of his imagery. His paintings have been, since the early nineteenth century, among the most admired of the British school, but his wider fame before recent times was based on the ubiquity of his engravings, usually in late printings and other debased forms. Even so, from his own lifetime his reputation was international. He was an important figure in later eighteenth-century Germany, largely through the brilliant commentaries on the prints by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742–1799), which first appeared between 1784 and 1796 in the Göttinger Taschenkalender. It is noteworthy that The Analysis of Beauty appeared in two German editions in 1754: in Hanover, published by J. W. Schmidt, and in Berlin and Potsdam, published by C. F. Voss; an Italian edition was published in Leghorn in 1761, and a French edition was published in Paris in 1805.
Hogarth was a posthumous victim, even in his wife's lifetime, of what Edmond Malone called in 1781 ‘Hogarthomania’, the fanatical desire to collect rare impressions and states of his prints (Bindman, Hogarth and his Times, 58). This was stimulated by the publication of Walpole's Anecdotes of Painting in England and John Nichols's Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth, also in 1781. Several collectors, most notably George Steevens, sought complete collections in the best impressions, and competed furiously against other collectors for rarities (Steevens's collection is in the Lewis Walpole Library, Farmington, Connecticut). The result was to add a large number of dubious prints to Hogarth's œuvre, especially juvenilia, and Samuel Ireland, though he bought a number of genuine works from Mrs Hogarth, had a great many doubtful works and some outright forgeries. The other early collection to remain intact is the Royal Collection started by George III, with many rarities added by George IV. Meanwhile the copperplates inherited by Mrs Hogarth continued to be printed off on demand, and were then bought after her death by John and Josiah Boydell and printed in an edition of 103 plates. In 1818 they were acquired by Baldwin, Cradock, and Joy, and restored by James Heath; in 1835 they passed to Henry G. Bohn, in 1864 to Chatto and Windus, and some time later to Bernard Quaritch. They were printed from almost incessantly until the end of the nineteenth century, and those that have survived are completely worn out.
Many commentators on Hogarth's work from his own time to the present, including Horace Walpole, Charles Lamb, and William Hazlitt, all of whom wrote extended accounts of Hogarth's engravings, have remarked upon their contradictory nature; pathos coexists with ribald humour and subtlety with coarseness. In the years after his death two barely reconcilable versions of Hogarth emerged, championed by opposing parties. For Horace Walpole, in the fourth volume of Anecdotes of Painting in England, printed privately in 1771 and published in October 1780, Hogarth was a highly sophisticated practitioner of social comedy like Molière, catching 'the manners and follies of an age living as they rise' (p. 357); for John Ireland, in Hogarth Illustrated (1785), on the other hand, he is an outsider, a countryman in touch with his north country background, 'the pupil,—the disciple,—the worshipper of nature!' appalled at the corruptions of the 'town' (1884 edn, 53). Hazlitt countered this view by pointing out: 'I know no one who had a less pastoral imagination than Hogarth. He delights in the thick of St Giles's or St James's. His pictures breathe a certain close, greasy, tavern air' (W. Hazlitt, Lectures on the English Comic Writers, 3rd edn, 1841, 292). Though both versions of Hogarth have had passionate supporters, the notion of Hogarth as an unsophisticated man of the people, implacably opposed to those in power, has tended to remain alive, though there is little basis for it in his life. It can be seen in George Augustus Sala's William Hogarth: Painter, Engraver, and Philosopher (1866), where his rural ancestry as 'descendent of a long line of north country yeomen' with 'Saxon' forebears, made him a 'healthy' example to modern urban youth. Marxist authors, like Francis David Klingender in Hogarth and English Caricature (1944), have seen him as part of a popular stream, alienated from power, while Frederick Antal in Hogarth and his Place in European Art (1962) identified him plausibly as a member of the progressive bourgeoisie of his time.
For subsequent artists Hogarth has been the touchstone for a morally inflected realist art, an art of social utility. Wherever such art has emerged in strength, in the Victorian period, in the aftermath of the First World War, in the United States in the 1930s, and in recent years in the aftermath of modernism, Hogarth has always been strongly invoked. Yet even self-proclaimed modernists have found merit in Hogarth's vigorous independence and apparent alienation from conventional society. Perhaps his greatest single contribution has been through the idea of the ‘Progress’ as a narrative life-history in a series of satirical episodes, allowing for pathos, indignation, and wit. Of the many artists who have made explicitly Hogarthian series the following may be noted: in the eighteenth century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray, John Collet, James Northcote, and Daniel Chodowiecki; in the nineteenth century, Johann Heinrich Ramberg, George Cruikshank, Augustus Egg, and William Powell Frith; in the twentieth century, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Peter Howson, Jörg Immendorf, David Low, and Ronald Searle. The two best-known twentieth-century interpretations are associated with the painter David Hockney (b. 1937): the series of sixteen etchings (1961–3) entitled A Rake's Progress (Bindman, Hogarth and his Times, no. 1), in which the story of the rake is used as a frame for a narrative of the artist's first visit to New York, and the opera by Igor Stravinsky, with libretto by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, The Rake's Progress of 1951, for which Hockney designed sets for Glyndebourne in 1975, using Hogarth's designs and a cross-hatching technique based on his engravings. There will be many more Hogarthian progresses in the twenty-first century.
- W. Hogarth, ‘Autobiographical notes’, ‘The analysis of beauty’, with the rejected passages from the manuscript drafts, and autobiographical notes, ed. J. Burke (1955) [compilation of Hogarth MSS in BL]
- M. Kitson, ed., ‘Hogarth's “Apology for painters”’, Walpole Society, 41 (1966–8), 46–111
- W. Hogarth, The analysis of beauty (1753)
- R. Paulson, Hogarth, 1 (1991)
- R. Paulson, Hogarth, 2 (1992)
- R. Paulson, Hogarth, 3 (1993)
- R. Paulson, Hogarth: his life, art and times, 2 vols. (1971)
- R. Paulson, Hogarth's graphic works, 3rd edn (1989)
- Vertue, Note books, vol. 3
- R. B. Beckett, Hogarth (1948) [catalogue of paintings]
- A. P. Oppé, The drawings of William Hogarth (1948) [catalogue]
- E. Einberg and J. Egerton, The age of Hogarth: British painters born 1675–1709 (1988)
- J. Egerton, The British school (1998)
- F. G. Stephens and M. D. George, eds., Catalogue of prints and drawings in the British Museum, division 1: political and personal satires, 3 (1877)
- H. Walpole, Anecdotes of painting in England … collected by the late George Vertue, and now digested and published, 4 (1771, )
- J. Nichols, Biographical anecdotes of William Hogarth, and a catalogue of his works chronologically arranged with occasional remarks, 3rd edn (1785)
- J. Nichols and G. Steevens, The genuine works of William Hogarth (1817)
- D. Bindman, Hogarth (1981)
- D. Bindman, Hogarth and his times: serious comedy (1997) [exhibition catalogue, BM, Sept 1997 – Jan 1998]
- D. Kunzle, ‘Plagiaries-by-memory of the Rake's progress and the genesis of Hogarth's second picture story’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 29 (1966), 311–48
- R. Simon and C. Woodward, eds., A rake's progress: from Hogarth to Hockney (1997) [exhibition catalogue, Sir John Soane's Museum, London, 26 March – 31 Aug 1997]
- W. Busch, Das sentimentalische Bild: Die Krise der Kunst im 18. Jahrhundert und die Geburt der Moderne (1993)
- L. Gowing, Hogarth (1971) [exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London]
- Lichtenberg's commentaries on Hogarth's engravings, trans. I. Herdan and G. Herdan (1966)
- B. W. Krysmanski, Hogarth's enthusiasm delineated: Nachahmung als Kritik am Kennertum (1996) [incl. bibliography]
- A. Dobson, William Hogarth (1907)
- family bible, BL, C.45.3.15
- W. Hogarth, self-portrait, oils, 1745, Tate collection [see illus.]
- self-portrait, group, oils, 1748 (O the roast beef of old England; ‘The Gate of Calais’), Tate collection
- engraving, pubd 1749 (after self-portrait, group, oils by W. Hogarth, 1748), repro. in Paulson, Graphic works, no. 180
- W. Hogarth, self-portrait, oils, 1758, NPG
- L. F. Roubiliac, terracotta bust, NPG
Wealth at Death
see will, Paulson, Hogarth: his life, vol. 2, p. 508