William Hogarth was an English painter, social critic, pictorial satirist, and printmaker. A versatile artist, Hogarth produced portraits, historical scenes, religious subjects, and series of moralizing art.
William Hogarth was born in November 1697 in London, England. He was born into a poor family. His father was first a Latin school teacher and then an unsuccessful Latin-speaking coffee house owner, which led him to debt and future imprisonment. In his childhood, Hogarth was apprenticed to Ellis Gamble, an engraver in Leicester Fields, where he learned to engrave mostly trade cards and products alike.
Young Hogarth also felt a keen interest in observing the fairs and street life in the metropolis, as well as sketching the characters he saw. He later became a member of the Rose and Crown Club, a group of artists, collectors, and connoisseurs, along with George Vertue, Peter Tillemans, and Michael Dahl.
By 1720, Hogarth was already an engraver in his own right, at first producing mostly commercial jobs, such as engraving shop bills, coats of arms, and designing plates for booksellers. In 1727 Hogarth was hired by the tapestry worker Joshua Morris to execute a design for him. Morris later heard that Hogarth was, in fact, an engraver, but no painter, consequently making Morris decline the work but only after completion. Hogarth then sued him for the money, which the case was decided in his favor.
Hogarth’s early engravings can be considered somewhat like Cartoon, regarding its satirical, political critics and composition. As can be noticed in his Emblematical Print on the South Sea, made about and right after the notorious English market crash of 1720, also known as the South Sea Bubble, when several English people lost a lot of their economies. Other notable artworks of his early career are The Lottery and A Just View of the British Stage.
During the subsequent years, Hogarth started to produce informal group portraits called conversation pieces. He also painted several portraits of chief actors of the time. The artist would also depict Sarah Malcolm In Prison, an English murderer convicted for multiple homicides, whom Hogarth sketched only a couple of days prior to her execution.
Starting in 1731, Hogarth began to produce a series of moralizing art, which granted him significant recognition. Probably the pivotal example of said artwork is entitled A Harlot’s Progress, which told the story of a young country girl who travels to the city and becomes a prostitute. Said series, comprised of 6 images, began with a scene with her meeting with a bawd and ended showing her death victim of venereal diseases. A Harlot’s Progress was followed by another series A Rake’s Progress and Marriage A-la-Mode.