Sunday, 10 November 2013


“Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.” - Henry David Thoreau

William Hogarth  (10 November 1697 – 26 October 1764) was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called “modern moral subjects”. Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as “Hogarthian”.

Hogarth was born in 1697 near the East End cattle market of Smithfield. His father, Richard Hogarth, made an unsuccessful attempt to open a Latin-speaking coffeehouse, which left the family bankrupt, Richard confined to Fleet Prison, and the young William fending for himself.

After apprenticing at a silver workshop, where he mastered the art of engraving, Hogarth opened his own print shop. The artist’s first widespread notice came with the publication of “The South Sea Scheme” (1721), ridiculing the greed and corruption of stock market speculators. “A Harlot’s Progress” (1732) brought Hogarth tremendous success and celebrity, leading to a second morality series, “A Rake’s Progress” (1734).

Throughout the 1730s and 1740s, the artist’s reputation grew and so did his interest in social and moral reform. Hogarth’s work took on a distinctly propagandist tone, directed at the urbanisation of London and the city’s problems with crime, prostitution, gambling, and alcoholism.

“Industry and Idleness” (1747) was designed to encourage young boys to develop a strong Protestant work ethic and thus achieve success. “Beer Street and Gin Lane” (1751), directed at the widespread sale and consumption of alcohol, were followed by “The Four Stages of Cruelty” (1751), which condemned rampant acts of cruelty to animals.

Hogarth died in 1764 in his home in Leicester Fields, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy. Working almost entirely outside the academic art establishment, he revolutionised the popular art market and the role of the artist. Hogarth strived to create works of great aesthetic beauty but also ones that would help to make London a better city for future generations.

The painting above is “The Lady’s Last Stake”, ca 1759, which may be a reference to Colley Cibber’s comedy “The Lady’s Last Stake” (1707). It is exhibited in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY, U.S.A. The success of this little picture, painted for Lord Charlemont, procured Hogarth a commission from Sir Richard Grosvenor to paint another picture “upon the same terms”. The painting has a theatrical treatment and commands admiration for its colour, drawing and expression.


  1. Great art story :) I think opening a print shop was a brilliant idea. Firstly Hogarth could add value to the art himself and not be forced to rely on other dealers and printers. Secondly he could bring down the cost of owning art work to a level where middle class families could afford it.

  2. Interesting bio and a great painting