Birth of William Hogarth on 10 November - i.e. six days after the celebration of King William's birthday on 4 Nov.: hence, probably, his name; and amidst the celebrations occasioned by the Peace of Ryswick (September) and the opening of Christopher Wren's new St. Paul's in December; after three children who had all died within the year of their birth and Richard (b. 1695, d. 1705), Mary (b.1699) and Anne (b. 170 1) who survived into adulthood. The family atmosphere is that of moderate Presbyterianism in a markedly nonconformist neighbourhood (Bartholomew Close, off Smithfield Market), familiar with The Pilgrim's Progress, and Puritan literature.
Richard Hogarth opens a learned coffee-house in St. John's Gate (midway between Smithfield and Clerkenwell) where customers are invited to speak Latin; he himself offers to give lessons to adults. He probably had had to close his school after fifteen years of limited success.
His coffee-house business having failed, Richard Hogarth becomes insolvent and is confined for debt in the Fleet Prison. Thanks to the financial help of relatives and to the enterprising character of Anne Hogarth, Richard and his family are allowed to live "within the Rules" in lodgings near the prison.
In July, Richard is discharged after four years of virtual imprisonment by virtue of the new "Act for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors" (May 1712), an Act for which Defoe had campaigned in The Review. WH never referred to his father's bankruptcy and ensuing imprisonment; but he remained haunted by his father's humiliation as an unsuccessful author, on the verge of Grubstreet, and by the fear of social disgrace.
One of Richard's recently published textbooks having been adopted by St. Paul's School, the financial situation of the family improves. But Richard's magnum opus, a Latin-English, English-Latin dictionary, never reached the press.William is apprenticed to a goldsmith's engraver, Ellis Gamble, an undistinguished craftsman, for seven years. Apparently he had stopped attending school entirely for some time, after erratic studies both at home and at school, where he had proved to be more-e attracted by drawing and theatre-going than by grammar and Latin. French Huguenot refugees had introduced high standards of workmanship which English goldsmiths and engravers had been forced to adopt, together with new French patterns.
Death of WH's father, broken "by disappointments from great mens Promises", as WH later claimed in his autobiographical notes.
WH sets himself up as an independent engraver, having failed to complete his apprenticeship, perhaps on account of his family's reduced circumstances after his father's death, or because he had realised that gold and silver engraving was too limited and that his talents lay elsewhere - in copper engraving and painting.
Because it was reproductive rather than original, engraving was considered as an inferior art form; its main interest was that it allowed reproduction in great numbers and at a low price. And the engraver had to submit to the demands of the painter on the one hand and of the printseller on the other hand.
With the peace of Utrecht, Continental engravings of the Italian, Dutch and French masters flood the London market, while several distinguished French engravers settle in Britain where they meet less competition and obtain greater rewards.
WH soon turns from engraving to etching, after the manner of Jacques Callot and Abraham Bosse, attempting to produce independent prints rather than reproductions. He registers at the new art academy opened by John Vanderbank, a former pupil of Kneller- the portrait painter, and Louis Cheron, a French history painter in the tradition of Le Brun's "Grand Manner", in St. Martin's Lane, where he can draw from the life and study the formal aspects of art.
1720 - 1721
Hack work for various Grubstreet productions such as William King's Pantheon (1721) or Charles Gildon's The New Metamorphosis (pub. 1724), but also WH's first sustained attempt at illustration with the Hudibras plates (small size).
The South Sea Scheme, one of the best and most original of the many satirical prints occasioned by the disastrous financial "bubble" of 1720; not published before 1724, as a companion piece to The Lottery , the first of WH's works in which the influence of the formal training at the Academy can be felt.
Engravings for Aubrey de la Motraye's Travels Through Europe, WH's first important illustrating commission.
1721 - 1724
At the St.Martin's Lane Academy WH meets William Kent, a rising and pretentious young painter much praised by Pope and Gay and Lord Burlington's protégé. Burlington was laying the foundations for a Whig aesthetic influenced by the principles of Shaftesbury (Characteristics , 1712) and of "Palladianism", to replace what he considered the Tory and Baroque aesthetic of Queen Anne's Board of Works, from which he had caused Wren and Hawksmoor to be ejected in 1718.
In 1720 Kent obtains important official commissions in place of Sir James Thornill, the Royal "Sergeant Painter" and the most prominent native painter of the period, the only one who could rival the great Continental history painters and decorative artists who had settled in Britain, such as Antonio Verrio, Louis Cheron, Louis Laguerre and the Riccis. Among his best known works are the walls of Wren's Greenwich Hospital and above all the Cupola of St.Paul's (1715-17).
February: Hogarth's print The Bad Taste of the Town (also called Masquerades and Operas ) turns out to be a great popular success; it ridicules Burlington and Kent as the main promoters of the vulgar and immoral entertainment's of the town - masquerade, Italian opera, pantomime. The print, which is immediately pirated, much to WH's annoyance, draws Thornhill's attention to Hogarth, whose work at that time shows many echoes of Thornhill's great paintings. A Just View of the British Stage 1724) harps on the same theme, at the expense of Drury Lane. The St. Martin's Lane Academy having closed, WH joins the new Academy opened by Thorhill in Covent Garden in an attempt to reassert his artistic leadership. WH soon becomes a regular visitor and a friend of the family.
1725 - 1726
Two illustrations for Paradise Lost, in the manner of Thornhill's history painting. In his set of twelve large illustrations to Hudibras published the same year by subscription WH mixes the grotesque style which is his forte with the heroic style of the academic tradition. In the wake of this successful venture the small (1721) prints are published as illustrations of a new edition of Hudibras.
A commissioned altar piece painted by Kent for a new church having caused a controversy, WH contributes a Burlesque on Kent's Altarpiece probably at Thornhill's suggestion. Among the hack work of that period are illustrations for La Calprenède's Cassandra and for Beaver's Military Punishments, in the manner of Jacques Callot.
1726 - 1727
WH contributes some of the prints in a series of illustrations of Don Quixote, the rest of the series being the work of John Vanderbank. This suggests to WH a large Don Quixote series like the Hudibras plates, but only one, Sancho's Feast, was completed.
December: Cunicularii a topical print inspired by the case of the notorious Mrs Toft; also in December, The Punishment of Lemuel Gulliver, one of the many productions inspired by Swift's narrative, Gulliver's Travels (published in October); with obvious satirical anti-Walpolian undertones.
Other anti-ministerial prints:
The Masquerade Ticket, which probably inspired Fielding's first published work, a poem entitled The Masquerade ; also Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn . But Walpole seems to have silenced Hogarth, in whom he could see a potentially dangerous satirist, by giving him the very flattering and highly rewarding commission of the "Walpole Salver", WH's swan song as a professional silver engraver. Hogarth and Fielding may have become acquainted at this time.
1726 - 1730
WH, who had turned to painting, probably with the help and encouragement of Thornhill, produces his first painting: a tapestry cartoon which is turned down by its commissioner, then The Beggar's Opera, inspired by the immense success of Gay's ballad opera, and which enables Hogarth to combine his two favourite art forms: painting and the theatre. He made six versions of the painting between 1728 and 1730 at the request of various commissioners.
The Bambridge Committee , a painting describing the confrontation between an innocent, persecuted prisoner, and the infamous warden of the Fleet prison, then submitted to an investigation of his wrong doings by a Parliamentary committee - the ugly reality behind the fiction of The Beggar's Opera. Also The House of Commons, a rather awkward gallery of portraits, the joint work of Thornhill (who was an M.P.) and Hogarth. Both paintings were based on WH's eyewitness reporting. March: WH marries Jane Thornhill, Sir James' daughter, without her parents' consent and after an elopement. Reconciliation soon ensued. They moved into the Great Piazza of Covent Garden with the Thornhills, where WH could use a studio appropriate to a portraitist.
1729 - 1731
Several assembly groups (The Wanstead Assembly ) and "conversation pictures" (about two dozens between 1729 and 173 1) either commissioned, or sold in the studio or auctioned. Though derived from the Dutch indoor scenes of the XVII th century and the more formal family scenes of the French neo-classical tradition (Largillière, De Troy, Coypel, Mercier), they show original characteristics, with the typically Hogarthian "inverted pyramid" structure -The Woodes Rogers Family, The Ashley and Popple Families, The Fountaine Family, The Wollaston Family, or the simpler "pyramid structure", for homelier scenes - The House of Cards (a typical pair of paintings), The Children's Tea Party, A Family Party. With these innovative family pieces WH has become fashionable and famous for his good humour and his skill at rendering faces. His "comic history paintings", long before Fielding developed his views in the Preface to Joseph Andrews, are very popular to: The Christening, The Denunciation. Other contemporary commissions: Before and After, Watteauesque outdoor scenes, a kind of pastoral burlesque, much more direct and realistic than the later indoor scenes on the same subject; A Club of Gentlemen and A Midnight Modern Conversation, later (1732) engraved and published with great success in the manner of A Harlot's Progress. Hogarth's patrons are wealthy Londoners belonging to the world of the professions, of trade or of the theatre, rather than the nobility. His group or scene paintings are appreciated for their humour and likeness and esteemed to be more entertaining than really valuable, which explains why so many have been lost or destroy.
Joseph Mitchell's Epistle to Mr. Hogarth, in which WH's originality is praised.
A Harlot's Progress, the first "modern history" series, probably suggested by various contemporary incidents and trials involving robbers, prostitutes, procuresses and rakes, extensively and repeatedly reported in the newspapers; especially the trial for rape of Colonel Charter is, an infamous rake, convicted and then pardoned by the King, who was the occasion for many pamphlets and prints (and may have inspired Richardson's "Mr. B." in Pamela). Also inspired by Defoe's Moll Flanders and Steele's Spectator campaign against prostitution. The six paintings (which have not survived) describing the fate of "Mary Hackabout" were completed in 1731 and the subscription for the copper plates (engraved by WH himself) opened with great success, curiosity being aroused by the complete novelty of the undertaking, with many topical details and allusions and several recognisable faces. The immense popular success of the series led to piratical imitations, pamphlets and poems; it influenced or inspired Fielding's Covent Garden Tragedy, played in June 1732.
A Scene from "The Conquest of Mexico" , an unusual conversation piece describing a performance of Dryden's play by children of the nobility to an audience of royal children - and a significant step up the ladder of patronage followed by more aristocratic portrait commissions (e.g. The Cholmondeley Family ). WH's curiosity and interest extending from royalty down to the London underworld, he also publishes a print of a notorious murderess,Sarah Malcolm (hanged in March 1732), whom he had visited and sketched in prison, and at the same time makes a portrait of the young Duke of Cumberland and sketches of the royal family for a commissioned royal conversation piece. The latter was cancelled by the influence of the Burlingtonians and the resentful William Kent, then the Court Master Carpenter; also because of the suspicion that WH had caricatured the Princess Royal in his frontispieces to Fielding's Tragedy of Tragedies in 1730.
Southwark Fair, a large painting and a successful print of low life, advertised for subscription together with a planned series of eight plates, "The Progress of a Rake".
The subscription ticket, A Laughing Audience, is an interesting theatrical metaphor- commenting on the proposed series, much in the manner of Fielding's future narrative technique in Tom Jones.
The Hogarths move to an address in Leicester Fields, a more fashionable and quieter place than the boisterous, theatrical Covent Garden. In these congenial surroundings WH launches into his most frenetically active years, with the nearby Old Slaughter's Coffee House in St. Martin's Lane as a meeting place for artists, wits, and men of letters, where he associates with Gravelot, the French designer, the introducer of the Rococo style into England, such painters as Francis Hayman, George Lambert, whose landscapes Hogarth often heightened with figures in the foreground (and Lambert may have helped Hogarth out with his own backgrounds), also John Ellis, Roubiliac the French sculptor, Jonathan Tyers, the director of the Spring Gardens at Vauxhall, Jonathan Richardson the theoretician (The theory of Painting, 1715), John Rich the theatre-manager, etc.
With the support of James Ralph in the Weekly Register, WH becomes involved in a controversy between English vs. foreign painting, against the Italian Amigoni who had been commissioned to decorate the new St. Bartholomew's Hospital, a work which Hogarth offered to perform gratis - which be did in 1735.
Death of Thornhill, whose reputation had faded in recent years.
A Rake's Progress, Hogarth 's most Swiftian satire, an association which Swift himself acknowledged in his poem "The Legion" (1736), 219-230. The painting and the engraving of the series describing the life of "Tom Rakewell" from the gaming table to Bedlam is very uneven, with a notable tendency towards violence and disorder and some unusual flaws.
May: The Engravers' Copyright Act receives the royal assent. It extends the regulations of the literary act ("Queen Anne's Act") of 1709 to prints, with a 14 years' copyright. The publication of The Rake's Progress prints was deliberately delayed until the Act took effect and appeared in August. Hogarth had been the main promoter of the campaign in favour of the new Act, which came to be referred to as Hogarth's Act. The number of pirated prints diminished rapidly. The copyright period was extended from 14 to 28 years in 1767. But Hogarth himself allowed cheaper, "authorised" copies to be made of his own prints.
December: WH re-establishes the artists' Academy of St. Martin's Lane "for drawing from the life", using Thornhill's equipment, with himself as supervisor and Gravelot, Hayman, Roubiliac and others as teachers. It is there that most of the artists of the period received their training.
1735 - 1736
Hogarth works at a huge painting for St. Bartholomew's Hospital, The Pool of Bethesda and on various popular prints: Before and After (the indoor scenes), The Sleeping Congregation, various "groups of heads" such as The Company of Undertakers.
The Good Samaritan at St. Bartholomew. These two impressive paintings (The Good Samaritan and The Pool of Bethesda), if not entirely successful, demonstrated that "history painting" in the grand manner of the late Thornhill was not above WH's capacity, but they did not lead to the commissions he probably expected from religious or state patrons, though they soon became one of the sights of London. The Good Samaritan may have suggested the central episode of Joseph Andrews. Other excursions into sublime history painting during these years, among which A Scene from 'The Tempest' (1735?).
The Distressed Poet , a comment on the fate of Grubstreet artists (with a quotation from The Dunciad), to ho associated with the later (1741) Enraged Musician.
WH announces that his prints are now available in bound volumes.
Strolling Actresses dressing in a Barn and The Four Times of the Day advertised and offered for subscription. Strolling Actresses, a humourous satire of theatrical illusion and heroic bombast, can be "read" as Hogarth's comment on the 1737 Licensing Act, which forced his friend Fielding to retire from the stage; partly inspired by Fielding's Tumble-Down Dick, or, Phaeton in the Suds (1736).
The Four Times of the Day are four scenes which describe the comedy of London life in contrasting examples of humour and cruelty in a variation on the traditional topos of the "four ages of man"; also influenced by John Gay's Trivia.
1738 - 1743
Jean-Baptiste Van Loo comes to London where ho soon asserts himself as the most fashionable portrait painter until his departure in 1742, superseding all English portrait painters such as Vanderbank or Higher. Against this new foreign challenge, and that offered by the young, successful, and Italianate Allan Ramsay, Hogarth decides to become a portrait painter himself, with Captain Coram (1740), George Arnold (c. 1740), Miss Mary Edwards (1742), Dr. Benjamin Hoadly, one of the leading Latitudinarian bishops (1743?) and Thomas Herring, then Arch-bishop of York (1744), as his most remarkable productions. It is the period of a self-portrait in a wig and of Roubiliac's terra cotta bust of WH.
Several group portraits too during these years: Lord Hervey and his Friends (1737), The Strode Family, The Western Family (both 1738), Lord Grey and Lady Mary Grey as Children (1740), The Graham Children (1742), The MacKinnon Children (1742?), Captain Lord George Graham in his Cabin (1745).
Fielding refers to Hogarth in his Champion essay on satire (10 June), then in his Preface to Joseph Andrews (1742), echoed in WH's own Characters and Caricaturas , the subscription ticket for Marriage-a-la-Mode (1743), with Fielding and Hogarth laughing face to face to face.
Taste a la Mode , a caricatural painting probably made at the suggestion of Mary Edwards, WH's friend and patron. It was not turned into an engraving, but it can be seen as anticipating the Marriage a la Mode series.
1743 - 1745
Marriage-a-la-Mode advertised for subscription, in six copper-plates engraved "by the best Masters in Paris" (WH himself doing the faces) secured during a short and largely undocumented stay in Paris where ho came to ho influenced by Quentin de la Tour's manner (June 1743): vz. Ravenet, Scotin, Baron. It is a "comic history" of high life in which the frenchified world of fashion which WH could never convert to his notions of taste and of a national art is satirised in a succession of scenes, from the comedy of manners to tragedy. The production was delayed when war broke out with France in 1744; the series was eventually published in May 1745.
An auction of his "comic history" paintings is the occasion for a humourous subscription ticket, The Battle of the Pictures, in which old masters attack Hogarth's modern histories. The auction attracts distinguished bidders, among whom the young Horace Walpole and William Backford. The sale represents the peak of WH's popularity as a painter of modern history. Self-portrait with pug, retitled Gulielmus Hogarth in 1748. The dog became a favourite emblem of his master, both with friends and with enemies in later controversies.
Also David Garrick as Richard III, a "sublime history" portrait: Hogarth and Garrick became close friends, an association which strengthened the relationship between Hogarth and the stage already established through Fielding.
Joseph Highmore completes his twelve paintings (and awkward prints)illustrating Richardson's Pamela, which had been published with immense success in 1740 and had eventually led Fielding to write Joseph Andrews. WH seems to have been offered the task; be and Richardson were acquainted, though Hogarth...
Indeed Hogarth was influenced by Richardson and Highmore, as is shown in his "Happy marriage" series, a project which only survives in a few unfinished sketches, notably the extraordinarily brilliant Country Dance, and was probably discontinued when WH realised that these exuberant oil sketches could never be engraved.
The French enameler Jean André‚ Rouquet publishes a pamphlet in French, Lettres de Monsieur ** à un de ses amis à Paris, Pour lui expliquer les Estampes de Monsieur Hogarth; probably at WH's suggestion, to attract more Continental purchasers, and with the help of Marshal Belleisle (the Maréchal de Belle-Isle), then a prisoner-of-war on parole in London and one of Hogarth's assiduous French supporters.
1746 - 1748
Already one of the governors of St. Bartholomew's Hospital and of the Foundling's Hospital, founded by his friend Captain Coram in 1740, Hogarth, who had already donated the Coram portrait, launches a campaign among his fellow artists to decorate the new buildings of the Hospital, opened in 1745, which thus came to be decorated by donations from Rysbrack the sculptor, Joseph Highmore, Hayman, Allen Ramsay, George Lambert, etc., later Richard Wilson, Gainsborough, Reynolds.The "Foundling" became (and still is) a permanent exhibition of the best of XVIIIth-century art.
WH's contribution was Moses brought to Pharaoh's Daughter (1746), which led to the flattering commission of a "sublime history" painting for Lincoln's Inn chapel, Paul before Felix (1748).
WH sold almost 10 000 impressions of a print representing the striking likeness of Simon Lord Lovat, one of the most notorious of the Highland chiefs taken prisoners and executed after the'45.
(June) The Stage-Coach, or the Country Inn Yard, a popular print and (October) Industry and Idleness, inspired by George Lillo's London Merchant (1731), in twelve paints, an immediate success.
No preliminary paintings were made for this deliberately simplified, pedagogical series. Ironically, whereas there is an obvious parallel between the industrious Apprentice's career and that of the author (and of Samuel Richardson's), it is Tom Idle's face, not Goodchild's, which resembles Hogarth's.
A trip to Paris with a few fellow artists, just after the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. It is the occasion for preliminary sketches of the Calais Gate, which caused Hogarth to be carried before the governor as a spy. Hogarth disliked everything he saw in France.
The Gate of Calais, or The Roast-Beef of Old England , a painting and a print, recording his recent misadventure.
The Hogarths buy a villa in Chiswick by the Thames, where WH spends as muchtime as he can with his wife and his sister Anne. Apparently the Hogarths had no children.
The March to Finchley , a "comic history painting" in the full sense of the term, a reminiscence of the Jacobite threat of the'45 and an echo of Tom Jones , published in 1749; but also a direct comment on the discontent in England after the peace. The print was engraved by Sullivan. In 1747 WH had designed the headpiece of Fielding's Jacobite Journal.
Gin Lane and Beer Street, to be associated with Fielding's Enquiry into the Causes of the Late Increase o Robbery, 1750; a deliberately didactic, social-minded, unambiguous pair of prints.
Also, in the same year, The Four Stages of Cruelty, with "Tom Nero" as protagoniste a series intended to horrify the public into some kind of charity towards animals and among themselves. These two series are "popular", expressive series, relying on direct and brutal effects, and strikingly different from the more complex earlier series.
Paul before Felix Burlesqued, a print "in the ridiculous manner of Rembrandt", meant to ridicule the contemporary rage for Rembrandt etchings and the gullibility of collectors. But Hogarth was ambivalent about Rembrandt, hesitating between imitation and parody.
Significantly, the profits of an auction organised by WH of the six Marriage a la Mode paintings in 1751 were disappointing - an unmistakable sign of disaffection among the nobility and the connoisseurs, deterred by the recent bias of Hogarth's work towards the unseemly aspect,; of contemporary reality.
In The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle , Smollett derides Hogarth, a close friend of his personal enemy Fielding, as "Pallett", a pretentious, talkative, dogmatic English painter in Paris, ignorant of foreign art, more remarkable as a businessman than as an artist - though Smollett also bas several laudatory allusions to WH in his novels. As a matter-of-fact WH's insularity, with his emphasis on didacticism and on the grotesque, brings him against the taste of the opening decade. A campaign bas been launched by St. Martin's Lane artists themselves for the creation of a national academy in the French manner, as the best way to encourage and distinguish native artists - not the informal, democratic structure of Hogarth's school of art, but a state institution with annual exhibitions, prizes, social status and royal favour.
November: The Analysis of Beauty (advertised as early as Feb. 1751), WH's retort to the projected academy, with two large plates of illustrations. In it lie offers his theory about the "line of beauty" and the pyramid structure, about variety in apparent regularity, but also fascinating details about his art as a painter and engraver, with idiosyncratic observations on contemporary life, manners, attitudes, fashions, complexions, etc. and how to imitate them in lines, colours and shadows. It was immediately the subject of his own friends' humourous comments and of satirical attacks from his enemies, notably a series of rather coarse but successful popular paints by Paul Sandby burlesquing Hogarth's own burlesque.
In fact there is much naivety, awkwardness and uncertain scholarship in the treatise. But WH's approach is not theoretical or platonic or academic but practical and "natural"; in the line of such innovative aestheticians as Addison and Hutcheson, it deliberately ignores moral judgements and the traditional problems of decorum and the hierarchy of genres.
False Perspective , published as a frontispiece to his friend Joshua Kirby's Method of Perspective made Easy; a humourous paint with an uncanny Escher-like effect.
March: An Election Entertainment advertised; four large prints made after four large and elaborate paintings, remarkable for their simplicity and coherence amid a great complexity of detail, revealing barely restrained disorder. The painting style may have been influenced by Canaletto, then in England; it also has a singular poster-like effect reminiscent of sign painting, a popular form which Hogarth was always fond of. Only the first picture was engraved by WH ; the other three were done by other engravers, not without difficulties which delayed the publication of the complete set until January 1758. The advertisement was timed to correspond to the general election to be held in April 1754 and which proved to be even more than usually violent and corrupt. The talc told by the series is one of disorder, corruption and mob violence.
The idea of a state academy being again the occasion of debates and pamphlets, WH seems to have withdrawn or at least absented himself from the St. Martin's Lane academy, where the state academy had many supporters, and whose leading figure now was Reynolds. He had become the most successful portrait painter of the day, the darling of the fashionable, world whom Hogarth had alienated.
Hogarth's views are reflected in his friend Rouquet's essay The State of the Arts in England (first published in French in 1754 as L'Etat des Arts en Angleterre). However, either because he felt that the idea could not be defeated, or because lie thought that it would be a good idea to support a counter-project, WH joined the Society of Arts which William Shipley had founded the year before to offer artistic training, organise joint exhibitions and give prizes to young artists, and where lie was very active in favour of poor artists until lie resigned in 1760.
Two successful popular plates in the war-like atmosphere of the Seven Years' War: The Invasion, 1. France and 2. England.
WH receives his largest commission for a sublime history painting, and the only one from the Church of England: the altar-piece for the Church of St. Mary Redcliffe, Bristol. He does much of the work in his London studio but actually paints it in situ, on account of the large size of the painting, between April and August 1756, employing a local sign-painter and decorator, John Simmons, as an assistant. The three panels show an Ascension in the manner of Raphael, The Sealing of the Sepulchre and The Three Marys Visiting the Sepulchre. The design is conventional and the composition is awkward; In fact the whole scheme was a miscalculation, with a baroque altar-piece in a clumsily modernised Gothic church, but obviously WH could not turn down such a flattering Church commission in spite of his bad state of health and general weariness.
Discouraged by the difficulties encountered in the engraving of the Election series, WH announces in the press that he intends to abandon the comic histories and retreat into portrait painting - as if to challenge Reynolds. Most of the portraits of these years are characteristically unfinished or without backgrounds, some in the manner of Rembrandt's chiaroscuro; e.g. David Garrick and his Wife, Lady Thornhill, Saunders Welch, Lord Charlemont, Boy in a Green Coat and above all Hogarth's Servants and The Shrimp Girl.
The period is also that of "special commissions", generally bawdy genre scenes painted at the request of noble friends to commemorate their hoaxes or drinking parties, notably the "Hellfire Club", the friends of Sir Francis Dashwood with whom WH was acquainted: Charity in the Cellar, Night Encounter, Sir Francis Dashwood at his Devotions, Francis Matthew Schutz being Sick.
WH is appointed Sergeant-Painter to the King, an honorary position (£10 a year) which Thornhill had held before him and passed to his son John, who died that year. But this sinecure implied the monopoly on all the painting or gilding made in the royal palaces and stables, on ships, tents, banners, coaches, etc.; the actual work was done by deputies and the Sergeant-Painter received lucrative fees.
Hogarth, Painting the Comic Muse, a self-portrait, very different in mood from the 1748 Gulielmus Hogarth ; the reverse image of the earlier portrait in fact, almost a caricature, especially in the engraving.
The Bench, a combination of text and illustration, a kind of postscript to Chapter 6 of the Analysis, on "Character, Carica-tura, and Outré‚".
The Lady's last Stake, another, homelier genre scene, WH's last "comic history", painted at the request of Lord Charlemont; also Sigismunda, at the request of Sir Richard Grosvenor who had asked for a similar genre scene, leaving the subject to Hogarth, and who had to pay for this austere painting in which WH had undertaken to outdo the Italian painters of the seicento, who had recently reached absurdly high prices at a sensational auction. Also Satan, Sin and Death, WH's last attempt at sublimity, a Miltonian scene inspired by Edmund Burke's Philosophical Enquiry into the Sublime and Beautiful (1757); left unfinished, but engraved in 1767, it probably inspired Fuseli and Blake and the vogue of "sublime" romantic painting.
The Cockpit , one of WH's best histories; it opens the last phase of his engraved histories.
1759 - 1761
Only a few minor prints, after two years of virtual retirement owing to bad health.
1760 - 1762
Enthusiasm Delineated, the only important print of this relatively barren period; probably sparked by Reynolds' three Idler essays (Nos. 76, 79, 82) published in 1759, in which bc praised the Italian Counter-Reformation masters for their sublimity in a way which could not but give offence to Hogarth's staunch Anglican principles. The print remarried unpublished until 1762, when it was offered as Credulity, Superstition and Fanaticism, the religions attack on Roman Catholicism and Methodism now merged into a general satire of credulity, and made into a companion piece to the 1736 Sleepy Congregation, revised for the occasion.
Sterne's Tristram Shandy (an immediate best-seller) bas several laudatory references to Hogarth, who is approached by common acquaintances for an illustration which was done accordingly, engraved by Ravenet and published as a frontispiece to the second edition, published the same year. In all WH did three illustrations for Tristram Shandy.
April: the first specially organised annual exhibition is being held, the result of the joint endeavours of the Foundling Hospital artists and of the Society of Arts (which, at WH's suggestion, had become the Society of Artists in 1759), the moving force behind the project being Reynolds. WH abstains from the very successful venture and follows his own idea of a democratic academy whose purpose would be to teach art and to help poor and superannuated artists, in draft notes on all aspects of his art and trade (probably for a book which was never completed) which reveal his mental unease and physical illness.
A break between the Foundling artists and the Society of Artists enables Hogarth to join them again and ho even contributes two prints to the catalogue of the 1761 Exhibition held in May, with four paintings (The Lady's Last Stake, The Gate of Calais, An Election Entertainment, Sigismunda) and three portraits - none of them recent works, but a sensational return to prominence, though Sigismunda provoked so much adverse criticism that ho had to withdraw it.
Time Smoking a Picture, the subscription ticket for the engraving of the ill-fated Sigismunda.
April: the St. James' Chronicle, a new periodical founded by Garrick and other sympathisers such as Thornton, bas a letter by a "John Oakly" closely reflecting Hogarth's views. The Exhibition is the occasion of a renewed debate in the press on art and the art trade.
November: The Five Orders of Periwigs, a satirical paint probably occasioned by the pomp of the recent Coronation (which WH as Sergeant-Painter probably had to supervise), deriding the classical, academic measurements of the human face and body by extending them to past and present periwigs.
March: The Farmer's Return, a frontispiece to a play by Garrick and (April) a commemorative sketch of Henry Fielding as a frontispiece to Murphy's first complete edition of HF's works.
May: an exhibition of signs by the "Society of Sign Painters" is staged by friends of Hogarth's, notably Thornton, the editor of the St. James' Chronicle, as a rival exhibition to that organised by the Society of Artists, from which WH had withdrawn. Hogarth obviously was behind this successful hoax.
The revised Superstition and Fanaticism in April shows WH's growing concern with politics and his dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in England, the general corruption and degeneration revealed by such episodes as the "Cock Lane Ghost", an example of modern credulity not inferior to the Toft case which was the occasion for the revised print.
With The Times, Plate I, published in September, WH passes from religion to politics. Europe is on fire and mad politicians impede the efforts of the few reasonable fire 17ighters. The print is a savage attack against Pitt as a warmonger for the sake of the City trade interests, and in support of the unpopular Lord Bute's peace efforts. The print occasions a newspaper war and several hostile prints, in which WH is the target of severe attacks, notably by Wilkes in the North-Briton . It was generally felt that Hogarth had overreached his political capacities, dealing with politics with the same allegorical weapons he had used at the beginning of his career in The South Sea Scheme and the Lottery.
The Times , Plate II, left unfinished after the fall of Bute, is more difficult to interpret. WH seems to have changed his mind and realised that he was not in a position to decide where good and evil stood, in the general confusion of opinions and complexity of issues.
In May, WH published his print of John Wilkes , a successful piece of propaganda, designed as a companion peace to the earlier (1746) Lord Lovat: the traitor and the demagogue. The print was the cause of more attacks in verse (Churchill's Epistle to William Hogarth ) and hostile caricatures, consistently portraying WH as his dog. His answer was The Bruiser, with Churchill as Bruin the drunken bear replacing Hogarth's face in the 1748 Gulielmus Hogarth, portrait and his pug-dog "Trump" pissing on Chuchill's Epistle.
Hostilities continued until Wilkes had to flee to France in December and was eventually expelled from Parliament in January 1764.
1763 - 1764
WH, whose health is seriously damaged, and who has become increasingly obsessive and pessimistic, revises his copperplates, writes commentaries on them and autobiographical notes.
April: The Tailpiece, or The Bathos, WH's ultimate published print. It reflects his gloomy state of mind: the whole world and Time himself coming to an end, in a heaping together of visual and verbal puns, a typically Augustan gesture of final annihilation reminiscent of the restoration of Chaos at the end of Pope's Dunciad.
25 October 1764: death of William Hogarth in the Leicester Fields house.
Further information on William Hogarth