William Hogarth

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Self-Portrait by Hogarth, ca. 1735, Yale Center for British Art.

William Hogarth (10 November 169726 October 1764) was a major English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited as a pioneer in western sequential art. His work ranged from excellent realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects." Much of his work, though at times vicious, poked fun at contemporary politics and customs.

Quotes[edit]

  • There is another Set of Gentry more noxious to the art than these, and those are your Picture-Jobbers from abroad, who are always ready to raise a great Cry in the Prints, whenever they think their Craft is in Danger; and indeed it is in their Interest to depreciate every English Work, as hurtful to their Trade, of continually importing Ship Loads of dead Christs, Holy Families, Madona's, and other dismal, dark Subjects, neither entertaining nor ornamental; on which they scrawl the terrible cramp Names of some Italian Masters, and fix on us poor Englishmen the Character of Universal Dupes.
    • Article in the St. James's Evening Post (7 June 1737), quoted in The London Magazine; Or, Gentleman's Monthly Intelligencer, Volume VI (July 1737), p. 385
  • After the March to Finchley, the next print I engraved, was the Roast Reef of old England; which took its rise from a visit I paid to France the preceding year. The first time an Englishman goes from Dover to Calais, he must be struck with the different face of things at so little a distance. A farcical pomp of war, pompous parade of religion, and much bustle with very little business. To sum up all, poverty, slavery, and innate insolence, covered with an affectation of politeness, give you even here a true picture of the manners of the whole nation... By the fat friar, who stops the lean cook that is sinking under the weight of a vast sirloin of beef, and two of the military bearing off a great kettle of soup maigre, I meant to display to my own countrymen the striking difference between the food, priests, soldiers, &c. of two nations so contiguous, that in a clear day one coast may be seen from the other.
    • John Ireland, Hogarth Illustrated, Volume III (3rd edn., 1812), pp. 340-341

The Analysis of Beauty (1753)[edit]

  • Any two opposite colours of the rainbow (eg yellow and blue) , form a third between them, thus imparting to each other their peculiar qualities . The sight of what they were originally is quite lost, and instead, a most pleasing green is found, which colour, nature has chosen for the vestment of the earth, and with the beauty of which the eye never tires.
  • Experience teaches us that the eye may be subdued and forced into forming and disposing of objects even quite contrary to what it would naturally see them, by pre judgement of the mind or some other persuasive motive.
  • A great many people seem to delight most in what they least understand.
  • On why our features sag, It is by the natural and unaffected movements of the muscles, caused by the passions of the mind, that every man's character would in some measure be written in his face, by the time he arrives at forty years of age.

Quotes about William Hogarth[edit]

  • In pictures of comic character, rich humour, and moral satire, and particularly in displaying the human figure and countenance in its common and popular forms, he certainly excelled all other painters... Hogarth was certainly an artist of peculiar and distinguished talents. He stood alone in art, and formed a school of his own. He was at once the Pictorial Satirist, Moralist, and Historian of the age in which he lived. I use the latter term, from the conviction that his pictures will always be referred to with pleasure and advantage, as recording the features, costume, and corporeal characteristics of many eminent and illustrious persons, and of many public and private events of his time.
    • John Britton, quoted in Anecdotes of William Hogarth: Written by Himself (1833), pp. 86-87
  • He pleaded the cause of virtue—it was vice that he painted in disgusting colours; and though the judicious spectator may occasionally discover grossness in the production of this great Artist, yet they were such as scenes from nature produced, and such as the great Moralist always contrasted, by displaying virtue at the same time in the loveliest attire, and giving her the most attractive expression.
    • James Christie, quoted in Anecdotes of William Hogarth: Written by Himself (1833), p. 81
  • William Hogarth was rather below the middle size; his eye was peculiarly bright and piercing; his look shrewd, sarcastic, and intelligent; the forehead high and round. He was active in person, bustling in manner, and fond of affecting a little state and importance: of a temper cheerful, joyous, and companionable; fond of mirth and good fellowship; desirous of saying strong and pointed things;—ardent in friendship—and in resentment. His lively conversation—his knowledge of character—his readiness of speech—and quickness of retort, made many covet his company, who were sometimes the objects of his satire; but he employed his wit on those who were present, and spared or defended the absent. His personal spirit was equal to his satiric talents; he provoked, with his pencil, the temper of those whom it was not prudent to offend; with him no vice nor folly found shelter behind wealth, or rank, or power.
    • Allan Cunningham, quoted in Anecdotes of William Hogarth: Written by Himself (1833), p. 87
  • [H]is character as an artist is to be gathered from numerous works, at once original and unrivalled. His fame has flown far and wide; his skill as an engraver spread his reputation as a painter; and all who love the dramatic representation of actual life—all who have hearts to be gladdened by humour—all who are pleased with judicious and well-directed satire—all who are charmed with the ludicrous looks of popular folly—and all who can be moved with the pathos of human suffering—are admirers of Hogarth. That his works are unlike those of other men, is his merit, not his fault. He belonged to no school of art; he was the produce of no academy; no man living or dead had any share in forming his mind, or in rendering his hand skilful. He was the spontaneous offspring of the graphic spirit of his country, as native to the heart of England as independence is, and he may be fairly called, in his own walk, the first-born of her spirit.
    • Allan Cunningham, quoted in Anecdotes of William Hogarth: Written by Himself (1833), p. 88
  • The ingenious Mr Hogarth [is one of the most] useful Satyrists that any Age hath produced.
    • Henry Fielding in The Champion (1740), quoted in V. De S. Pinto, 'William Hogarth', in Boris Ford (ed.), A Guide to English Literature, Volume 4 (1957), p. 289
  • These derisive prints give only a distorted idea of a world which to Hogarth was always strange and uncongenial: that of the patron supporting an obedient circle and in addition favouring the foreigner to the detriment of a home-grown art.
  • They said he could not paint flesh. There's flesh and blood for you.
  • The Temple of Nature was his academy,—and his topography the map of the human mind.
  • His engravings, though coarse, are forcible, in a degree scarcely to be paralleled. Every figure is drawn from the quarry of nature; and, though seldom polished, is always animated.
    • John Ireland, Hogarth Illustrated, Volume I (1791), p. cxvii
  • [T]he matchless Election Entertainment... [i]n that inimitable print (which in my judgment as far exceeds the more known and celebrated March to Finchley as the best comedy exceeds the best farce that ever was written) let a person look till he be saturated... when he shall have sufficiently admired this wealth of genius, let him fairly say what is the result left on his mind. Is it an impression of the vileness and worthlessness of his species? or is it not the general feeling which remains, after the individual faces have ceased to act sensibly upon his mind, a kindly one in favour of his species? was not the general air of the scene wholesome? did it do the heart hurt to be among it? Something of a riotous spirit, to be sure, is there, some worldly-mindedness in some of the faces, a Dodingtonian smoothness which does not promise any superfluous degree of sincerity in the fine gentleman who has been the occasion of calling so much good company together: but is not the general cast of expression in the faces, of the good sort? do they not seem cut out of the good old rock, substantial English honesty?
    • Charles Lamb, quoted in Anecdotes of William Hogarth: Written by Himself (1833), pp. 113-115
  • Hogarth adopted a new line of art, purely English; his merits are known to the public, more from his prints than from his paintings: both deserve our attention. His pictures often display beautiful colouring, as well as accurate drawing: his subjects generally convey useful lessons of morality, and are calculated to improve the man, as well as the artist: and he teaches with effect, because he delights while he instructs. It has been said of him, that in his pictures he composed comedies; his humour never fails to excite mirth, and it is directed against the fit objects of ridicule or contempt. The powers of his pencil were not perverted to the purposes of personal attack; the application of his satire was general, and the end at which he aimed was the reformation of folly or of vice.
  • It cannot, indeed, be truly said of Hogarth, that he improved the practice of the arts of Painting and Engraving, which he professed; but he merited the praise of having more powerfully exhibited their moral utility than any of his predecessors.
    • Thomas Phillips, quoted in Anecdotes of William Hogarth: Written by Himself (1833), p. 81
  • Hogarth resembles Butler, but his subjects are more universal, and amidst all his pleasantry, he observes the true end of comedy, reformation; there is always a moral to his pictures. Sometimes he rose to tragedy, not in the catastrophe of kings and heroes, but in marking how vice conducts insensibly and incidentally to misery and shame. He warns against encouraging cruelty and idleness in young minds, and discerns how the different vices of the great and the vulgar lead by various paths to the same unhappiness.
    • Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England; With Some Account of the Principal Artists, Vol. III (1876), p. 2
  • It is to Hogarth's honour that in so many scenes of satire or ridicule, it is obvious that ill-nature did not guide his pencil. His end is always reformation, and his reproofs general.
    • Horace Walpole, Anecdotes of Painting in England; With Some Account of the Principal Artists, Vol. III (1876), p. 3
  • I turned my thoughts to a still more novel mode..to compose pictures on canvas similar to representations on the stage...my picture is my stage,and men and women my players exhibited in a 'dumb' show.

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