William Hogarth


During the 18th century the truly national school of painting was created, William Hogarth was the first great English painter who raised British pictorial art to a high level of importance. W. Hogarth is regarded as a great humorist whose prints provided an anatomy of his own time which could be compared with Shakespeare's depiction of Elizabethan England. He is also distinguished as a moralist and satirist on canvas. Hogarth's personality was contradictory as well as contradictory directions in his art. He was a fighter in argument, yet deeply hurt by criticism. He could be rude in his judgments and at the same time he was able of making delicate remarks. For him the audience was his own contemporaries and their verdict was of great importance to him. William Hogarth was the son of a schoolmaster, who wasn't successful in life and spent some years in Fleet Prison for debts. It affected the painter's childhood, especially his father's stories about the sufferings people had to endure in prison. William wasn't educated anywhere as he was taken early from school and served as an apprentice to a silver engraver. When he was 20 his father died and William couldn't expect to find an easy road to success and fame.
Hogarth was a social painter who produced his own pictorial drama. He depicted various scenes of society's social life. His cruel satire was directed mainly at aristocracy but he did not spare the middle and lower classes. He showed the terrible evils of the society with unprecedented courage. He observed life with a keen and critical eye. His art was a reflection, an interpretation and a commentary on the social condition of his time.
William Hogarth was a man of individual character and thought and he considered himself independent of any foreign influences as a self- taught artist. He was not always successful but he created his unique style coupled with his own life experience. He called his pictures of social life "modern moral subjects", a direction absolutely new in British Art. He organized pictorial images into series which tell a complete story of contemporary life. His pictures possess elaborate plots, dramatic conflicts and tragic elements. We "read" his pictures as we read a novel and our pleasure increases with the number of details we notice and jokes we understand. Among his favorite works are six pictures united under the title "Marriage a-la-Mode". This famous series is really a novel in paint telling the story of the marriage of an earl's son and a city merchant's daughter. This marriage is based on vanity and money, and it is doomed to a tragic end. The possibility of affection between the young couple is destroyed by the false position they have been placed in by their parents, as they are forced not to love each other but to play roles as rake and woman of pleasure. Hogarth was also a brilliant portrait painter. In portraiture he displayed a great variety.
The charm of childhood and a delightful delicacy of color appear in "The Graham Children". This picture is notable for its play of expression and movement and for the freshness of its color. The portraits of Hogarth's servants are penetrating studies of character. There is no hint of satire here.
The painting of Captain Coram is a brilliant example of a ceremonial portrait.
Hogarth's self-portrait is a remarkable piece of work giving a very life-like image of the "candid, honest, obstinate little man" as his wife called him. By him sits a little dog, his favourite Trump. The famous "Shrimp Girl" takes its place among the masterpieces in its harmony of form and content, its freshness and vitality.

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