Sean Shesgreen, a foremost authority on Hogarth, has consistently selected the best states of the plates to be used in this edition and has carefully introduced them, commenting upon the artist's milieu and the importance of plot, character, time, setting, and other dimensions. A most important aspect of this book, found in no other Hogarth edition, is the positioning of the editor's commentary on each plate on a facing page. With the incredible and sometimes overwhelming amount of detail and action going on in these engravings, this is a most helpful feature.
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Engravings by Hogarth
By Sean Shesgreen
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1973 Sean Shesgreen
All rights reserved.
A Chronology of the Life of William Hogarth
* * *
The text of this biography is based largely on Hogarth's own Autobiographical Notes, which, written toward the conclusion of his life, offer the most instructive approach presently available to the artist and his work. Only to a minimal degree have punctuation, spelling and capitalization been emended and words inserted or omitted from his rough draft to clarify the artist's sense. As a result much of Hogarth's notoriously irregular spelling and awkward phrasing has been retained.
Included at various points in the chronology are George Vertue's informative but often hostile comments on Hogarth's career. Vertue, a contemporary of the artist, was himself an engraver, and his Note Books provide valuable first-hand information about Hogarth's professional life. Vertue's remarks have been edited in the same manner as the quotations from Hogarth's Autobiographical Notes.
William Hogarth, according to the parish register at Great St. Bartholomew's Church, was born "next doore to Mr. Downinge's the Printer's, November ye 10th," in Bartholomew Close, an old middle-class section of London. Father, Richard Hogarth, a schoolmaster, literary hack and classical scholar of considerable ability.
Educated by his father and in grammar school. Of this period he says in retrospect: "I had naturally a good eye; shews of all sort gave me uncommon pleasure when an Infant; and mimickry, common to all children, was remarkable in me. An early access to a neighbouring Painter drew my attention from play; every oppertunity was employd in attempt at drawing. I pickt up acquaintances of the same turn. When at school my exercises were more remarkable for the ornaments which adorn'd them than for the Exercise itself. I found Blockheads with better memories beat me in the former, but I was particularly distinguished for the latter."
"Taken early from school and served a long apprenticeship to a Silver plate Engraver," one Ellis Gamble, at the Golden Angel in Leicester Fields.
Found engraving on silver "too limited in every respect. Engraving on copper was at twenty his utmost ambition." These reasons and the inspiration derived from the art in Greenwich Hospital and St. Paul's done by Sir James Thornhill, a baroque artist of ability, and the architect Sir Christopher Wren, determined Hogarth to keep to "this Engraving no longer than necessity obliged me to it."
Father died in May of "Illness occationd by partly the useage he met with from this set of people [grasping booksellers] and partly by disapointments from great mens Promises."
Attended John Vanderbank's drawing school and trained memory to make available certain common set-pieces which would enable him to become proficient in painting and engraving. "For want of beginning early with the Burin on copper Plates as well as that care and patience I dispaired of at so late as twenty of having the full command of the graver—for on these two virtues the Beauty and delicacy of the stroke of graving cheifly depends—it was much more unlikely, if I pursued the common methods of copying and drawing, I should ever be able to make my own designs as I was ambitious of doing. I therefore endeavoured a habit of retaining what ever I saw in such a manner as by the repeating in my mind the parts of which objects were composed, I could by degrees put them down with my pencil so that when I was about my Pleasure or amusement I was at the same time upon my studies."
April, issued own shop card establishing himself as independent engraver working for booksellers, goldsmiths, merchants and families.
Designed coats of arms, shop cards, funeral and benefit tickets, illustrations for books and some satirical engravings.
"An Emblematical Print on the South Sea Scheme (1721) and "The Lottery" (1721), first topical satiricfprints.
Other prints from this period: "A Just View of the British Stage" (1724) and the illustrations for Hudibras (1725/6), Hogarth's most important work from this period. "Another work appeard which was well enough accepted," Vertue relates, "being undertook by printsellers, the several Stories of Hudibrass, designd in a burlesque manner humoring very naturally the Ideas of that famous poem. These designes were the Invention of Wm. Hogarth, a young Man of facile and ready Invention, who, from a perfect natural genius improvd by some study in the Accademy under the direction of Cheron and Van-derbank, has producd several charactures in print; if not so well gravd, yet still the humours are well represented, whereby he gain'd reputation. From being bred up to small gravings of plate work and watch workes, he has so far excelld that by the strength of his genius and drawing, and now applying himself to painting of small conversation peices, he meets with good encouragement according to his Meritt."
At publication of the engraving "Masquerade Ticket" (perhaps because of it) became acquainted with Sir James Thornhill, Serjeant Painter to the King. Thornhill responsible for a number of frescoes on historical and mythological subjects in the grand or sublime manner, a style Hogarth never ceased to aspire to. Attended Thornhill's Covent-Garden Academy.
Shift in emphasis from engraving to painting in Hogarth's career. "Then maried [Sir James Thornhill's only daughter Jane, secretly, March 25, 1729, at Old Paddington Church] and turned Painter of Portraits in small conversation Peices [i.e. small, full-length group portraits ten to fifteen inches high of figures in informal poses and settings] and great success, but that manner of Painting was not sufficiently paid to do every thing my family requird."
"Mr Hogarths paintings," Vertue observes around 1730," gain every day so many admirers that happy are they that can get a picture of his painting. A small peice of several figures representing a Christening being lately sold at a public sale for a good price got him much reputation. Also another peice representing the Gentlemen of the Committee of the House of Commons in the jails setting upon the examination of those malefactors was well painted and their likeness is observd truely. Many other family peices and conversations consisting of many figures done with great spirit, a lively invention and an universal agreeableness.
A Harlot's Progress engraved from six pictures painted c 1731. Issued in April to twelve hundred subscribers.
May 27, set forth from Bedford Arms Tavern on famous "peregrination" with four comrades: John Thornhill, brother-in-law, William Tothall, draper, Samuel Scott, landscape painter, Ebenezer Forrest, lawyer. Group spent five convivial days wandering around Kent in carefree spirits. The lark immortalized in journal of tour written by Forrest and illustrated by Scott and Hogarth.
Took up residence in a house in Leicester Field at the sign of the Golden Head; lived there for the remainder of his life.
"Saturday night May 4. Died Sr. J. Thornhill Knt, the greatest History painter this Kingdom has produced," writes Vertue. "Witness his elaborate workes in that noble Structure of Greenwhich Hospital, the Cupola of St. Pauls Cathedral, the Altar peices in the Chappel of All Souls college, Oxford and in the Church of Weymouth, the place of his Nativity.
"He left a son, Mr. J. Thornhill, who by the interest of Sr. James got to be Sergeant Painter and painter to the Navy Royal. An only daughter married Mr. Wm. Hogarth painter and Engraver, admired for his curious conversations and paintings, as well serious as humourous. Sr. James has left a great Collection of pictures and other Curiosities."
Hogarth inherited furniture and equipment from his father-in-law's school; used this to set up cooperative academy with other artists in St. Martin's Lane. School survived till founding of Royal Academy.
"After having had my first plates Pirated in all sides and manner, I applied to parliament for redress which not only has so effectualy done my business but has made prints a considerable article and trade in this country, there being more business of that kind done in this Town than in Paris or any where else." This act of Parliament, Hogarth's Act, giving engravers and designers exclusive rights to their work for fourteen years, received Royal Assent May 15.
A Rake's Progress, engraved from paintings completed in 1734. Issued June 25, day after Hogarth's Act became law. This progress secured his reputation with his contemporaries.
Hogarth again more interested in painting life-size portraits and oils in the sublime style than engraving.
"The puffing in books about the grand stile of history painting put him upon trying how that might take. So, without haveing a stroke of this grand business before him, imediatly, from family pictures in smal, he painted a great stair case at Bartholomews Hospital with two scripture-stories, the Pool of Bethesday [1735–1736] and the Good Samaritan , figures 7 foot high. This present to the charity he gave. By the pother made about the grand stile, thought they might serve as a specimen to shew that, were there any inclination in England for Historical painting, such a first essay would Proove it more easily attainable than is imagined. But religion, the great promoter of this stile in other countries, in this rejected it.'.
Visited Paris in 1743 with the intent, in Vertue's opinion, "to cultivate knowledge or improve his Stock of Assurance."
Chief portraits in oil for this period: Peg Woffington (1740), Lavinia Fenton (1740), Captain Coram (1740), Graham Children (1742), Mrs. Salter (1744).
Principal engravings of this time: Before and After (1736), "The Distrest Poet" (1736/7), The Your Times of the Day (1738), "Strolling Actresses" (1738), "The Enraged Musician" (1741).
Marriage à la Mode appeared in June after pictures completed by Hogarth c 1743. For the prints "Hogarth employd 3 French Engravers; finisht the first of June, 1745—to the obscuration of my reputation," Vertue remarks despairingly.
Only at this late date did Hogarth seem to recognize his ability as engraver and commit himself to that "intermediate species of subject ... between the sublime and the grotesque." And this probably because he considered the first auction of his comic history paintings to have failed miserably (he sold twenty for £450).
Vertue provides an interesting summary of Hogarth's career up to this point and recounts the artist's curious and unsuccessful attempt to sell his paintings. "As all things have their spring from nature, time and cultivation, so Arts have their bloom and Fruite as well in other places as in this Kingdom. On this observation at present a true English Genius in the Art of Painting has sprung and by natural strength of himself chiefly, begun with little and low-shrubb instructions, rose to a surprizing hight in the publick esteem and opinion. This remarkable circumstance is of Mr. Hogarth whose first practice was as an aprentice to a mean sort of Engraver of coats of arms which he left and applying to painting and study drew and painted humorous conversations in time with wonderful succes. From thence to portrait painting at large and attempted History thro' all of which with strong and powerfull pursuits and studyes. By the boldness of his Genious (in opposition to all other professors of Painting) he got into great Reputation and esteem of the Lovers of Art, Nobles of the greatest consideration in the Nation and by his undaunted spirit, despisd and under-valud all other present and preceedent painters such as Kneller, Lilly, Vandyke, English painters of the highest Reputation. Such reasonings or envious detractions he made the subject of his conversations and Observations to Gentlemen and Lovers of Art. Such invidious reflections he would argue and maintain with all sorts of Artists, painters and sculptors.
"But to carry a point higher, he proposed to sell his paintings, 6 of the Harlots progress; those of the Rakes progress and others of the 4 Times of the day and the Strolling Actresses, by a new manner of sale which was by Engravd printed tickets his own doing deliverd to Gentlemen, Noblemen and Lovers of Arts only (no painters nor Artists to be admitted to his sale). By this Letter and a day affixd to meet at his house the pictures were put up to sale to bid Gold only by a Clock set purposely by the minute hand—5 minutes each lott—so that by this means he coud raise them to the most value and no barr of Criticks' Judgement nor cost of Auctioneers. By this subtle means he sold about 20 pictures of his own paintings for near 450 pounds in an hour.
"Admitting that the Temper of the people loves humourous, spritely diverting subjects in painting, yet surely the Foxes tale was of great use to him.
As Hudibrass expresseth:
yet He! that hath but Impudence,
to all things, has a Fair pretence."
Attempt in the grand manner failing, Hogarth tells us in his own account of this period, "I therefore recomend those who come to me for portraits to other Painters, and turn my thoughts to still a more new way of proceeding, viz painting and Engraving modern moral Subjects, a Field unbroke up in any Country or any age.... Dealing with the public in general I found was the most likely to work, provided I could strike the passions and by small sums from many, by means of prints which I could Engrav from my Pictures myself, I could secure my Property to myself." This decision resulted in Hogarth's redirecting his art toward the lower and lower-middle classes.
Mr. Garrick in the Character of Richard the Third (both painting and engraving) and popular "Simon Lord Lovat" appeared.
Religious history painting, Moses Brought to Pharaoh's Daughter, done for Foundling Hospital.
Industry and Idleness appeared in October, etched and engraved from preliminary drawings.
Only public commission for a history painting, Paul before Felix, "done for to be placed in Lincoln's Inn chappel," Vertue tells, "but there being no propper room for it, it is placed in Lincoln's Inn hall over the Seat where the Lord chancellor sits. It is a great work and shows the greatness and magnificence of Mr Hogarths genius. It is placed too high and not so well to the light as it shoud be, but appears great and noble. These two pieces [the second piece is Moses Brought to Pharaoh's Daughter] he has proposed to put out in prints. This very piece in Lincoln's Inn hall procurd him by means of his Friends and their interest, being paid £200 left by will of chancellor Wyndham of Ireland and other monies for the picture and frame altogether. This really is a great work and of much honor so that it raises the character of that little man—tho not his person—whose additional cunning and skill and a good stock of assurance every way of the acutest kind possible causes him to be well paid beyond most others of the same profession."
Visit to France with artist friends occasioned 0 the Roast Beef of Old England: The Gate of Calais (painting completed in 1748). "The first time any one goes from hence to france by way of Calais, he cannot avoid being struck with the Extreem different face things appear with at so little a distance from Dover. A farcical pomp of war, parade of religion and Bustle with very little business, in short, poverty, slavery and Insolence (with an affectation of politeness) give you even here the first specimen of the whole country. Nor are the figures less opposite to those of dover than the two shores. Fish women have faces of leather, and soldiers are ragged and lean. I was seiz by one of them and carried to the governor as a spy as I was sauntering about and observing them and the gate, which it seems, was build by the English when the place was in our possession—there is a fair appearance still of the arms of England upon it. As I conceild none of the memorandum I had privately taken and they being found to be only those of a painter for own use, it was Judged necessary only to confine me to my lodging till the wind changed for our coming away to England where I-no sooner arived but set about the Picture wherein I introduced a poor high-lander fled thither on account of the Rebelion brozing on scanty french fare in sight of a Surloin of Beef, a present from England which is opposed to the Kettle of soup meager. My own figure, in the corner with the soldier's hand upon my shoulder, is said to be tolerably like."
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Table of Contents
ContentsList of Plates,
A Chronology of the Life of William Hogarth,
PLATES, with Commentary,