- Hogarth Court EC3
- UG: Monument
- Bus: 40 100 D1 D11
- Follow the directions for Fenn Court but continue past Fenn Court for about 20 yds. Hogarth Court is on the left.
Hogarth Court, in name, is a relative newcomer to the London street scene; it used to be called Fishmonger Alley until 1936 when the authorities seized on a little piece of history connecting William Hogarth with the adjacent Elephant Tavern. Apparently, the famous painter took lodging at the Tavern at some point in his career and humorously portrayed it in Modern Midnight Conversation, painted to raise a fistful of the readies when he was in a spot of financial difficulty. Ever since that time the walls have been adorned with his works and devotees of the man have reverenced the place on bended knee.
Although all of the buildings around here were destroyed in the Great Fire, because of its stone structure the Elephant survived the tremendous heat, and provided refuge for a great many who had lost their homes. Due to deterioration the place was rebuilt in 1826, and in 1900 the frontage of the house was altered to conform with the line of buildings taken back by the widening of Fenchurch Street. The devastation of the Second World War almost saw the disappearance of the Elephant altogether but the brewers, in cooperation with the developers have resurrected the tavern, although somewhat differently styled, on the ground and basement floors of Victoria House. The tavern has an entrance on Hogarth Court.
William Hogarth was born in 1697 in Bartholomew Close, West Smithfield. His schoolmaster father was an easy going man who enforced nothing on young William but encouraged him in the development of his natural talents. Very early in his life the lad showed a flare for sketching and painting, so that when he left school it seemed quite natural that he would follow an artistic career. It was while working as an apprentice engraver at Gamble's silversmith's shop in Cranbourne Alley, near to Leicester Square, that he acquired perfection in a skill that was to pay off multifold in the years to come.
In 1727 his great potential was recognised by Sir James Thornhill who favoured him by agreeing to take him on as a student at his art school in James Street, Covent Garden. But Hogarth was dizzily attracted to Thornhill's daughter and spent as much time attending to her as he did to his studies, eventually eloping with her to distant Paddington where the two were secretly married in 1729.
The taverns around St Martin's Lane were the openings to Hogarth's success and fortune; here he found the wealthy punters in the way of actors and other stage performers who were willing to pay the price of a portrait. He was a master of exaggeration; his scenes of every-day events depict the theme with great accuracy yet in a style which is uncannily burlesque. His painting of the central archway of Horse Guards illustrates in typical caricature a coach with headless driver emerging from the low tunnel. One of Hogarth's most sought after works at the time were the prints made from an engraving of Sarah Malcolm, a destitute washer woman who viciously murdered Mrs Duncumbe and her maid, Anne Price in Church Court (The Temple) in 1733. The Duke of Roxburghe was desperate enough to secure a copy that he paid £8.5s (£8.25p) for a single print.
Receipts from sales like this enabled Hogarth to purchase a house near to Leicester Square where he added a studio and workshops for a team of engravers. After his death his widow remained at the house until her final day in 1789; it was then sold to a Mr Pagliano who transformed it into the Sablonnier Hotel and it became popular with his native Italians until the site was required for development in 1870. About the same time of his Leicester Square purchase Hogarth invested his resources in some of the worldly comforts that one would expect of a successful artist and bought a country house in Chiswick. At first the house was used as an occasional retreat in the summer months but in later years he increasingly spent more time away from the noise of inner city and died in 'the little country box by the Thames' on the 25th October 1764, aged 67. The red-brick house in Hogarth Lane was opened as the Hogarth Museum in 1902 and was renovated in 1951 after a narrowly escaping total destruction in World War II.
William Hogarth is buried in Chiswick churchyard.