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Artist Biography
William Hogarth (1697-1764)

HogarthHogarth was born 10 November, 1697, in St. Bartholomew's Close, London, England. He left school in 1713 and was apprenticed to Ellis Gamble, a silver-plate engraver and dealer in plate. In 1720 he joined the St. Martin's Lane Academy, an important step in his development as a painter. Hogarth published his first independent print in 1724, Masquerades and Operas, Burlington Gate. This print attacked English subservience to foreign art.

By 1728 Hogarth was an accomplished painter, quickly establishing a reputation as a master of the conversation piece. While he was a significant portraitist, historical painter, and genre artist, it is Hogarth's series of narrative engravings that have become fixed in critical history as a major contribution in both the art and literature of England.

It was in 1732 that Hogarth first used the form that would make him renowned in his own time. That year, he produced the first of his modern moral subjects - A Harlot's Progress. The concept began from a single picture, to which he was encouraged to add a companion. The ideas multiplied, however, until he had a total of six images telling the story of a prostitute's downfall. The original paintings were destroyed by fire in 1755.

Hogarth profited immensely from the sale of his prints. Never-the-less, he was irate that others freely used his work for their own gain. Booksellers openly made cheap copies of his prints to sell and returned the originals to him unsold. Hogarth appealed to Parliament for an act securing the rights of artists to their own work, and withheld his second series - A Rake's Progress - until the act passed in June of 1735. "Hogarth's Act," as it is referred to, is the forerunner of the modern British copyright law.

In picture series such as A Rake's Progress or Marriage a la Mode, Hogarth foreshadowed the development of the twentieth-century comic strip. His merit lies in his ability to superbly balance text and picture which makes a telling pint in a single statement. His work was so unconventional from that of his peers that a new name - cartoon - was created to describe it. As such, Hogarth is most noted as the father of the modern editorial cartoon. Hogarth is widely considered as the first artist that the term cartoonist can legitimately be applied.

His series of engravings include: A Harlot's Progress (six engravings), 1732; A Rake's Progress (eight paintings, engraved by Hogarth), 1735; Four Times of Day (four engravings), 1738; Marriage a la Mode (six paintings, engraved by Hogarth), 1745; Industry and Idleness (twelve engravings), 1747; Four Stages of Cruelty (four engravings), 1751; and Four Prints of an Election (four engravings), 1758.

Hogarth died at Leicester Fields, 25 October, 1764.


Encyclopedia of World Biography. Vol. 7. 2d ed. Detroit: Gale, 1998.

Horn, Maurice, ed. Contemporary Graphic Artists. Detroit, Mich.: Gale Research Company, 1987.