Hogarth, Or More Properly Hogart William, an English painter, born in London in 1697, or according to some authorities in 1698, died Oct. 26, 1764. His father, who was the son of a Westmoreland yeoman, and by profession a teacher and an occasional corrector of the press, could do little more for him than " put him in the way of shifting for himself." His education was therefore scanty; but his early taste for design was evinced in the number and variety of the ornaments with which his school books were adorned. He was apprenticed to a silversmith, and, in the intervals of his labors in engraving arms and ciphers, gradually acquired a knowledge of drawing from nature. At 20 years of age engraving on copper was his utmost ambition. The first indication of the direction his talents were to take was given in a humorous illustration of a pothouse brawl, of which he was a witness. Upon the expiration of his apprenticeship in 1718 he attended the lectures of Sir James Thornhill, sergeant painter to the king, and drew from the life at the academy in St. Martin's lane, but without attaining any great proficiency.
His first employment seems to have been the engraving of shop bills and arms, after which he furnished frontispieces and plates for books, of which his illustrations of "Hudibras " afford a not very felicitous example, as he was always more successful in illustrating his own ideas than those of others. Having meanwhile acquired some facility in painting, he endeavored to "find employment in painting portraits, a branch of his art in which he might have attained eminence had he chosen. Thus struggling on, and always contriving, as he tells us, to be " a prompt paymaster," he ventured in 1730 upon a "stolen union" with the daughter of his former master, Sir James Thorn-hill, which at first proved very unpalatable to the court painter; but when his son-in-law began to gain distinction Sir James became reconciled to the young couple. Shortly after his marriage Hogarth adopted portrait painting as a profession, and also commenced what he called " small conversation pieces," in which the figures were drawn from the life, and often in humorous attitudes, though not burlesques. From this class of subjects he naturally proceeded to those more earnest scenes of daily life on which his fame rests.
In 1734 appeared the six prints of " The Harlot's Progress," designed and engraved by himself, and the artist at once became famous. Upward of 1,200 subscribers entered their names for the series, of which eight piratical imitations almost immediately appeared, to the detriment of the painter, who in 1735 procured the passage of an act of parliament securing to an engraver the copyright of his plates for 14 years. Recognizing by the applause which greeted these works his true path to fortune, he renounced portrait painting, and followed up his success by "The Rake's Progress," "Industry and Idleness," " Marriage a la Mode," " The Four Times of the Day," "The Four Stages of Cruelty," "Beer Lane" and " Gin Lane," and other works, in series or single, which were engraved by himself, and were produced at regular intervals until the close of his life. Appearing at a time when the national efforts in art were few and feeble, they won a popularity which has perhaps increased with time, and to which that of no contemporary artist can be compared. To the last he retained his wonderful powers, and a careful comparison of all his works will show no lack of invention or satiric humor in any of them.
Like many men of genius, Hogarth had his foibles, and among them was the impression that historical painting was his true vocation. He railed at the old masters, especially deriding the pretensions of connoisseurs and the popular estimates of the value of old pictures, and undertook to show that no preliminary training was necessary to produce a good historical painting. The result was his "Paul before Felix," "The Pool of Bethesda," and some other works executed at the outset of his career; and "Sigismunda," painted in 1759, in competition with a picture on the same subject by Correggio, and in direct illustration of his principle. The ridicule which the last mentioned picture encountered equalled that bestowed upon his "Analysis of Beauty" (4to, London, 1753), the leading principle of which is that a curved line, in shape somewhat like the letter S, is the foundation of all beauty. But Hogarth preserved his equanimity until his quarrel in 1702 with Wilkes and Churchill, which he seems to have provoked by a print, entitled "The Times," indirectly ridiculing Wilkes and the opponents of the ministry.
Wilkes replied in a strain of coarse abuse in the 17th number of the "North Briton," and Churchill in a poetical epistle lashed the painter, and more particularly "Sigismunda," with all his strong powers of satire. Hogarth revenged himself upon his opponents with his pencil, depicting the former simply in his natural ugliness, with a Satanic leer which the demagogue could not but acknowledge was genuine, and the latter as a canonical bear, holding a pot of porter and hugging a post inscribed with an ascending scale of lies. The controversy affected Hogarth's health and spirits, and probably hastened his death. - It is a striking fact that the six pictures of "Marriage a la Mode" were sold in 1744 for £19 6s., though 50 years afterward they brought £1,381. Modern critics have declared that, with the single exception of color, these works are superior to most of the recent productions of English painters. His life has been written by Allan Cunningham, and by G. A. Sala (London, 1867). Of the various editions of his works, the best is that published by the Boydells (atlas fol., London, 1790), the original plates of which, retouched by Heath and others, have been issued in several subsequent editions.
Another edition in atlas folio, containing Hogarth's works reengraved by Thomas Cook, was published in London in 1802, but is far inferior to that of the Boydells. The best 4to edition is that edited by Nichols and Steevens (3 vols., London, 1808-'17), with letterpress illustrations. An edition has been issued in 12mo, in which the plates are reduced in exact facsimile (London, 1874). Several reproductions of the engravings of Hogarth have appeared in Germany, among which are: Hogarth's sammtliche Kunstwerke.in 74 Blattern (Leipsic, 1841); Hogarth's Werke in verkleiner-ten aber vollstandigen Copien, 75 Tafeln (Got-tingen, 1850-'53); and Hogarth's Zeichnungen, mit Erklarung (Gera, 1856-'8). The "Analysis of Beauty," in which he is said to have been assisted by Dr. Benjamin Hoadley and Dr. Morell, was reprinted in 1810; it has been translated into German, French, and Italian.