The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
Home > On-line Edition > Biography

William Hogarth, 1697-1764

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1697.11.10
Place of Birth: London
Date of Death: 1764.10.25
Place of Death: Chiswick, London


William Hogarth was a painter and engraver. His father Richard Hogarth was a Latin scholar and schoolmaster. Hogarth married Sir James Thornhill's daughter.


Hogarth studied drawing at St Martin's Lane Academy in London. He began his career painting small portrait groups and conversation pieces, but made his reputation through his modern moral subjects, which received a mass audience through engravings. The first of these was A Harlot's Progress (1731/32; whereabouts unknown). He continued to paint portraits, e.g. Captain Coram (1740; Coram Foundation, London), painted for the Foundling Hospital, of which Hogarth became Governor. Hogarth later wrote a treatise on aesthetics entitled The Analysis of Beauty (1753).

As a twelve year old boy JW was given a book of Hogarth engravings, while convalescing from rheumatic fever. From this point, he became JW's favourite English painter. It has been pointed out that JW sequence drawings (eg. On Post in Camp: First half hour (M.128), On Post in Camp: Second half hour (M.129), On Post in Camp: Third half hour (M.130), On Post in Camp: Last half hour (M.131)), composed at West Point, may have been inspired by Hogarth's Rake's Progress or The Four Stages of Cruelty.

JW admired Hogarth's ability to capture the grittiness of modern life existence, and his early etchings and paintings of the Thames show a similar concern for the low-life urban scene. Later, painting the Thames at night in the 1870s, JW adopted a mnemonic system of working that had also been used by Hogarth. JW's images of Cremorne Gardens, dating from this period, bring to mind images such as Hogarth's engraving Southwark Fair (1734).

JW had the opportunity to view the work of Hogarth at the exhibitions of British portraiture held at the South Kensington Museum. His Arrangement in Black, No. 3: Sir Henry Irving as Philip II of Spain (YMSM 187) can be traced back to Hogarth's David Garrick as Richard III. JW's portraits of the 1890s onwards, e.g. Harmony in Yellow and Gold: The Gold Girl - Connie Gilchrist (YMSM 190), show a renewed interest in Hogarth's paintings of children. In October 1902, painting Dorothy Seton, Dorothy Seton (YMSM 551), JW declared, 'I find hers a remarkable face. It reminds me of Hogarth's Shrimp Girl in the National Gallery'. The Pennells record how later in life JW praised the character and colour of Hogarth's work.


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Young, Andrew McLaren, Margaret F. MacDonald, Robin Spencer and Hamish Miles, The Paintings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1980; Lochnan, Katharine A., The Etchings of James McNeill Whistler, New Haven and London, 1984; Dorment, Richard, and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1994; MacDonald, Margaret F., James McNeill Whistler. Drawings, Pastels and Watercolours. A Catalogue Raisonné, New Haven and London, 1995; O'Connell, Sheila, 'William Hogarth', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 27 November 2002).