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William Hogarth – Is his vision of London an accurate portrayal of times?

William Hogarth was considered as the originator of the English satirical art, he is often described as a graphic satirist and moralist . His work was often regarded as an exact depiction of London during his time, although some of his work could be overstated and exaggerated but often offers the true ways of the times. In his art, Hogarth usually satirizes the English society, the well-off and the underprivileged alike. His paintings and engravings portray the culture in which he existed.

The costumes and habits of life of the times are all shown in his work. In most instances, he is satirical and exaggerated, some of the blunders of the people in his works are greatly embellished, although there can be times when he is bitingly realistic in his visions. It seems that no one is safe from his cartoons, from the lords and ladies, to slaves and servants, prostitutes, criminals. Overall, his work shows civilization of a broad cross-section of people in England during this time, often portrayed in very comical manners.

As one of the chief orchestrators of the English Enlightenment, William Hogarth wanted to produce art that will be understood by everyone by establishing his own form of art, breaking the norms of art by creating his own subjects. Subjects taken from his observations and perceptions and presented in the form of pictorial sequences, showing a mirror of an England undergoing rapid financial expansion and social transformation, these were then circulated widely through their reproduction as engravings, due to this unique approach Hogarth was the first English artist to break the international arena.

He was regarded as a fundamental factor in the 18th century English culture via his paintings, engravings, and candid art censure, it can also be noted that he was the first one to capture themes from Shakespeare, other playwrights and the theatre and convey them in his art, choosing to paint/engrave art that conveys real life rather than the usual subjects of his contemporaries. He also founded the Hogarthian sort of art that represents the art of moral history.

Art enthusiasts will never associate Hogarth with the ‘trendy artists’ of his time, he refused to succumb to the norms like that of his colleagues but rather choosing more to imitate in his art some very real life situations seen thru his observations and interpretations of his generation, rather than choose to paint the more obvious subjects that are religious, mythological or historical that other artists like Van Dyck or Holbein usually depicts .

The initial half of the 18th century was an era of powerful intellectual tumult in England and Hogarth was well versed in English literature, especially that being printed by his generation. His set objective was to be known as an English artist and a true native of London, a born and bred Londoner, and it was what he was. He also aspired to become the interpreter of modern metropolitan existence. There has never been an artist that had so powerfully and enduringly defined his era of British history .

There is no question that he reigns as the father of England’s prosperous custom of parody and is until now is still considered as one of the most innovative and vigorous minds of the British world of art. Famous for his paintings, Hogarth’s engravings are even more paramount. In this sense one must surmise that William Hogarth is the epitome of English Art and it is important to gain insight into his life in order to fully assimilate his art and realize the value of his contributions to the English Art industry. Just who was William Hogarth? – A brief biography To many William Hogarth is an enigma.

So, in order to fully appreciate him, his work and the driving force behind his art, it is of use that some familiarity about William Hogarth’s life and times be established, from his early years as a youthful and determined engraver in the 1720s, through to his ascent to recognition and affluence in the 1730s and 1740s, and to the notorious years in the 1750s until his death 1764. William Hogarth is largely sequential and themed in arrangement, his portraiture and conversation pieces, single works, such as Marriage A-la-Mode, or to a group of consistently themed works, such as Industry and Idleness (1747) and The Stages of Cruelty (1751) .

Knowing who he was, what his life was when he was growing up and what factors influenced his views of the society and culture he lived in, or if there are any particular event in his lifetime that led him to a biased view. This paper will attempt to rediscover the life led by William Hogarth, how he saw his life, how it was depicted in his work and how thru his works of art he affected the social, political and moral strata of London during his time.

The paper will also attempt to discover if his satirical views were accidental in nature and were just how he really viewed the world or if it is a deliberate act intended to incite his viewers and readers to react to his work by making moves towards a change in their society. William Hogarth and His roots William Hogarth was the 5th child born to Anne Gibbons on November 10, 1697. Although they were not living in the slums, his father Richard Hogarth was a deprived Latin teacher originating from a small farming community, then went to London with high hopes of becoming an educator and writer.

Unfortunately William’s father failed in this endeavour, he also ventured into a Latin-themed coffee house, which unfortunately failed in the end, which also led him to imprisonment secondary debt, but can be considered very lucky for later on, he was released due to an amnesty program . During his teenage years, Hogarth left school and started to train with Ellis Gamble a silver plate engraver, who was a distant relative. He was not able to finish this apprenticeship with Gamble but Hogarth was determined to get out of poverty, so he established his own engraving business doing book plates, small etched cards and other short lived projects.

Because he was interested in painting, he started studying it, firstly at St. Martin’s Lane Academy, when around this time he met and became friends with the artist, Sir James Thornhill, he continued his studies in painting under the tutelage of Thornhill at the Covent Garden. He eventually married Thornhill’s daughter Jane in 1729. In an effort to tap into the rewarding market of conversation pieces, Hogarth then directed his art towards painting .

He got his break after finishing work commission to him for the novel Hudibras (figure 1. 0) by Samuel Butler in 1726. At about this time he also started to do satirical pieces. Hogarth by then was making a good living out of doing portraits and conversation pieces, but he believed that the profit he was making from such were not enough and thus, he started making his own genre of art, he called it the ‘modern moral subject’ and he was able to establish himself thoroughly as an artist owing to his two most triumphant ‘masterpieces’.

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