|Study of his servants|
|The Shrimp Girl|
|The Beggar's Opera VI, 1731, Tate Britain's version|
The great twentieth-century cartoonist David Low described William Hogarth as the grandfather of the political cartoon. What he meant was that while Hogarth didn't quite set the template for political cartoons as we now recognize them (Gillray did that a generation later), the medium wouldn't be the same without him. There's a great deal of truth in this, but not necessarily for the obvious reasons. Hogarth refined a pre-existing tradition of visual satire, taking it to previously unscaled heights of sophistication and skill. And, through the popularity of his output, he placed visual satire shoulder to shoulder with the textual satire of the times (the elderly Swift wrote a poem to the young Hogarth, praising him and proposing that they collaborate). But he also established a journalistic tradition that's still flourishing today. (from a review of his show at the Tate, 2007). Hogarth cared passionately about both, primarily for personal reasons but also because he believed in art as a vital creative force in society.
|A Rake's Progress, Plate 8, 1735, and retouched by Hogarth in 1763 by adding the Britannia emblem|
|Marriage à-la-mode, Shortly After the Marriage (scene two of six).|
|First print in the series "A Harlot's Progress" Complete series on line at Wikipedia|
In the next few years, small paintings, which acknowledged a great debt to the early 18th-century painter Antoine Watteau and the elegance of French Rococo art, brought Hogarth an appreciative and wealthy clientele. Hogarth soon got tired of this and turned to works which showed the depth and breadth of contemporary life, all the good, the bad and the ugly.
|A harlot's progress, Plate|
London becomes a hell on earth as the poor drink themselves to death. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/picture/2012/sep/12/william-hogarth-gin-lane
Hogarth was in many ways a contradictory figure: a satirist who wanted to be part of the Establishment; a popular engraver who wished to be recognized as a serious artist. He succeeded in being all these things (although, in the first instance, at great personal cost). But first and foremost he was a polemicist. That may seem to be a pretty obvious thing to say when you look at A Rake's Progress (1735), or A Harlot's Progress (1732), or The Idle and Industrious Apprentice (1747), or Stages of Cruelty (1751). But what's truly interesting is the way he did it, because it was essentially contradictory.
Take his most famous print, Gin Lane (1751). At face value it is identical, in intention and effect, to a modern tabloid headline. It was inspired by a news story Hogarth heard about a woman who murdered her infant daughter so she could sell her clothes to buy gin - the equivalent of a banner headline today about teenagers killing someone for money to buy crack. It's meant to shock; moreover, it's meant to shock the viewer into better behavior. Thus its companion piece, Beer Street (also 1751), showing the advantages of honest English ale over evil foreign gin. To this end it was sold cheaply in order to reach as wide an audience as possible. In other words, it was a kind of proto-popular journalism, the first glimmer of the developing mass media.
From the Art Bible: William Hogarth will be remembered as the father of satirical caricatures and moral paintings, a genre which would later develop into cartoons. His determination and stout middle-class values made him one of the most innovative artists of his generation and he brought art to the common man for the first time in history.
Biographical information from the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Information on the print Gin Lane
Gin Lane vs Beer Street.
144 art works: https://www.wikiart.org/en/william-hogarth
What was missed in history class: https://www.missedinhistory.com/podcasts/william-hogarth.htm
Art Bible: https://www.artble.com/artists/william_hogarth