Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: William Hogarth (England, 1697-1763)

Figure 1.--Hogarth painted the Graham Children in 1742. It is a wonderful depiction of w children in a prosperous middle class family. It magically captures the exhuberance of childhood and their love of fun. Notice the singing bird and fierce cat. The boy wears a suit with knee breaches just like his father's clothes no doubt. This paonting is held at the Tate Gallery. /i>

William Hogarth is one of the most respected British Artists. He is in fact the first widely popular British artist because his engraved prints exposed the entire British public to his work. He was both an engraver and painter. He aprenticed as a silversmith. After finishing his aprenticeship he began working as an engraver and later turned to painting. His images are some of the most vivid images painted of 18th century England, provide wonderful glimpses of the family life, especially affluent families, as well as contemporary manners and custims. His detiled images provide extremely accurate depictions of fashions and clothing. Hogarth is also famous for is marvelous satiries on popular life.


William's father was a school master and failed in an effort to run a coffee house. He wrote a Latin dictionary. It was never published which William blamed on unscrupulous publishers. Later in life, William would play a major role in Britain's first copyright law. His father spent 4 years in a debtor's prison.


William was born in 1697. He grew up in London.


William because of his father's limited finances. did an apprenticeship as a silversmith, beginning in 1718. The training prepared him for his work as an engraver.


William attended an art school in St. Martin's Lane which had French and Dutch teachers. He also attended Free Academy operated by James Thornhill. This ttraining and his aprenticeship of course combined with his skill and inspiration left his a young man able to ebgravem, draw, and paint.


Apprecitices were how boys in the medieval period learned their crafts. It was a system regulated by the craft guilds. By the 18th century, boys still did apprenticships, but the system was less and less regulated by the guilds which had declined in importance. Also formal schools were becoming oncreasingly important.


I know little about his family except that he married the daughter of James Thornhill who ran the Free Academy that he had attended.


After his apprecticeship, Hogarth began to work as an engraver. It was as an engraver that he first became well known. His first engravings were satirical attacks, first on finavial cupidity and then on imported Italian operas. Hogarth in 1726 for did the illustrations for Samuel Butler's novel Hudibras (1726). Today we think of engraving as a minor adjunct to painting. Engraving was in the 18th century the only way that images of a painting could be circulated to large numbers of people. Many artists had others do their engraving. Some painters were also engravers. Some engravers never painted but the engraving was an art work in itself. Hogarth, however, essentially painted to be engraved. [Jphnson, p. 435.] The engraving was a natural step from his apprecticeship as a silversmith. The quality of Hogarth's engravings far exceeded what English consumers were used to and continue to wonderful examples of the engravers art.


After achieving some success as an engraver, Hogarth began painting about 1728. The first "The Beggars Opera" which, unlike the Italian operas, he approved us as thoroughly English. Early in his career he found a lucrative market for low life "action scenes". One of a prostiture about to be arrested proved especially popular and he received commissions for several copies. Some of his first paintings were small group scenes. An early example was "A Musical Party" (1730?). In only a few years he established a his name as a painter as well. His most notable early work was a set of paintings, "A Harlot's Progress" (1731-1732) and "A Rake's Progress" (1735). These series of works, often morality plays, are what Hogarth is best known for. Engravings based on these paintings were widely circulated and pasted or framed on walls throughout the country. They established his reputation as a commentator on English manners and customs. He also did some large murals on religious themes, "The Good Samaritan" and "The Pool of Bethesda". Hogarth in 1743 began painting a six piece series "Marriage à la Mode". Again it was the engravings that were distributed throughout Britain to great acclaim. Again it was the sattire of affluent upper-middle class Britain that caught the popular imagination. It was a satire on marriage for money, a common matter in upper-middle class Britain. Here of special interested are the wonderfully detailed depictions of fashion and clothing. Hogarth's many wonderful portraits oif individuals and families add to this.


Hogarth was constantly plagued by pirates who copied his engravings. This was possible because large numbers of copies could be reproduced with a copied engraving. It was as a resulted of widespread copying of these works that Hogarth succeeded in gaining the passage of the first copyright law, the Engravers Copyright Act (1735). Some refer to it as Hogarth's Act (1735).


An Italian reader who is researing economics and children clothing has noticed that many painteres employed cherries in their paintings. He is not sure what the cherries symbolized. We note that in many medieval and Renaissance paintings that cherries appear. One analyst suggests, that cherries or the "Fruit of Paradise" are used "... as a reward of virtue, are symbolic of Heaven". We note that Hogarth used cherries in his paintings. We are not possitive as to the symbolism he intended, but Hogarth also addressed moral ossues in his work. HBC believes the cherries may be a symbol of inosence, but can not yet confirm this.


Hogarth also wrote and published. His firstbook was The Analysis of Beauty (1753). This was a fascinating statement of his aesthetic principles.


Hogarth in 1757 received the honor of appointment as "sergeant painter" to King George II.


Hogarth in his final years took an increasing interest in politics. He in particular took exception with the British political reformer John Wilkes. Hogarth frely saterized Wilkes, incliding a notable engraving. Wilkes for his part publiched a criticism of Hogarth's painting, taking an exception to "Sigismunda" (1759).

Last Years

Hogarth produced his last engraving near death. It was "The Bathos" and he meant it as his farewell piece. The engrving s publishd after his death in 1764. Hofarth died in 1764 at Chiswick. His monument contains an epitaph written by an actor named David Garrick.


William Hogarth is one of the most respected British Artists. He is in fact the first widely popular British artist because his engraved prints exposed the entire British public to his work. One art historian claims that the very English Hogarth helped found a British school, partly as a result of the huge number of his prints that circulated throughout Britain. [Johnson, p. 436.] Hoharth believed that English art was constrained by the absence of schools for aspiring artists. He refounded the St. Martin's Lane Academy and wanted to make it a permanent institution, but failed. He would have objected to the Royal Academy which was founded 4 years after he died because of the way the French Académie allowed the monarchy to control artistic expression. [Johnson, pp. 436-37.] Louis XIV through Le Brun dominated French art and that influences persisted even after Louis into Hogarth's era.


Johnson, Paul. Art: A New History (Harper Collins: New York, 2003), 777p.


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Created: February 3, 2003
Last updated: February 3, 2003