William Hogarth

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William Hogarth was an 18th century English artist. He was the man of many talents, including printmaking, social criticism and editorial cartoon drawing. He is credited for pioneering the modern sequential art. His work encompassed a wide variety of art forms, realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures. His art often served as a political satire on his society and hence the term “Hogarthian” style originated to refer to satire inspired style.

He was born on 10 November 1697, in London, to a lower class family. His father was a teacher and a textbook writer. Being apprentice to an engraver, Hogarth learned to engrave trade cards and other products. In his youth, he used to participate in the London fairs and enjoyed metropolis street life. He would then sketch the interesting characters he saw around him. His father got imprisoned for five years for debt he failed pay back.

Hogarth began his career as an engraver framing plates for booksellers and shop bills. A tapestry worker, Joshua Morris, approached him to prepare design for the Element of Earth, in 1727. However, when Morris found that Hogarth was only an engraver and not a painter he withdrew his offer upon completion of work. Hogarth took legal action against Morris and sued him for money. As a result, the Westminster Court gave a verdict in Hogarth’s favour.

His early works include satire on English society which is evident in Emblematical Print on the South Sea Scheme. It was based on the infamous stock market crash that left many a traders penniless. The picture depicts the three religious sects Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish, gambling, while the other people are scattered around, giving a sense of disorder and chaos. At the center it shows people gathering around to buy stocks from the South Sea Company. Hogarth’s other early works include, The Mystery of Masonry brought to Light by the Gormogons, The Lottery and A Just View of the British Stage. He also used to do book illustrations.

A large body of his work is satirical targeting John Rich’s pantomimes, excessive popularity of Lord Burlington’s protégé, the architect and painter William Kent and the masquerades of the Swiss impresario John James Heidegger. Samuel Butler hired him to prepare twelve large engravings which he valued himself. He then directed his energy toward preparing conversation pieces in oil paint, such as The Assembly at Wanstead House, The Fountaine Family and The House of Commons examining Bambridge. Sarah Malcolm was one of his real life (ordinary) person’s sketches which he made just two days before her execution.

John Dryden’s The Indian Emperor, or The Conquest of Mexico also became subject of his work representing children acting out the notable work. His other popular artworks include the extraordinary A Midnight Modern Conversation, The Company of Undertakers, Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn, and The Distrest Poet. Burlington Gate is one of his controversial works based on Alexander Pope’s Epistle to Lord Burlington. The work was considered offensive satirizing the Burlington hence it was suppressed. Hogarth sketched a series of scenes titled A Harlot’s Progress. The series of images represent a harsh view of young woman’s life when she begins to prostitute and as her life ends with a venereal infection. The series was deemed a huge success for Hogarth, who then later launched another one entitled, A Rake’s Progress.

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