British Artist: William Hogarth, Painting Satirical Portraits

If coffee and art have any overt or covert connection between them, the British painter Hogarth (1696–1764) would be a befitting specimen to prove it. 

Portrait of a Man
Artist William Hogarth
South London

He was the son of a coffee house owner. But fate painted Hogarth’s life with the colour of loss. The story was like this. His father was a Latin school teacher. He opened a Latin-speaking Coffee house. That did not work. His father was declared debt-ridden and he had to go into jail for that. Subsequently, Hogarth lost his father before he completed the apprenticeship as an engraver. 

Resultantly, in addition to the coffee, Hogarth was required to arrange bread for his family, too. He did it. He did it very well. He used his artistic talent admirably. He found out a new field to track on. Hogarth had a close connection with theatre and drama. It helped him. He painted and engraved many scenes from well-known operas. His craftsmanship using diverse colours and their characteristics was unmatched. So was his personal life. 

Portrait of Mary Edwards, 
  William Hogarth 1742
The Frick Collection, 
New York City

His personal life was full of dramatic incidents; he married his mentor’s daughter by a dramatic act of eloping. This act of bravery made him capable to start conventional work; he started portraying wealthy people. Look at the portrait of a Lady here. Hogarth painted satirical portraits, too. It gave him fame and pounds.

Living in eighteenth-century London, in the time of Hogarth, was like stumbling on some terrible game of snakes and ladder. But by concentrating on his art, Hogarth kept ascending the ladder of his artistic career. 

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Painting Analised: The painting given above is the portrait of Miss Mary Edwards. She was Hogarth’s close friend and the lady of good luck. An amount of unexpected inheritance had helped her to become rich. She had become one of the richest women in contemporary England, so suddenly. Hogarth had cultivated a friendship with the rich lady.

Hogarth’s art of portraying was at its height. And before Mary Edwards died, after three years of making the above portrait, he did his job well. Hogarth had embedded her enormous wealth and the weight of the jewellery painted in the portrait.  Look at the portrait. The vigorous handling of the ruffles of the clothes and the liveliness on the face of the dog shows how precise he was in his art.

Hogarth had narrated the contemporary social situation in his paintings. He had done several engravings to depict the plight of poor workmen. It was the time when the ill-effects of the industrial revolution had started to raise their heads. Unemployment was an issue, too. The idle people had started to become criminal or drunkards. Hogarth had painted and engraved such incidents, narrating the common men's life. However, painting the theatre scenes was his favourite subject.

William Hogarth Oil on Canvas
David Garrick (1717-79) with his wife
Eva-Maria Veigel, 
Royal Collection 
of the 
British royal family

Portrait Analised: Hogarth had painted one of his great friends: David Garrik, together with David's wife. He was a great drama artist and drama manager himself.  Hogarth painted David as King in one of Shakespeare's drama. However, David had not liked the painting much. In this painting, his wife is trying to tease him or distract him. 

If we look at the painting, we see Garrick in a blue dress. The dress is richly embroidered. The atmosphere is dreamy, as David is shown having a feather in his hand.  His wife, who was a good dancer is standing behind the chair. She had put on a precious yellow dress. It shows how rich the couple was. 

The painting is presently a part of the Royal Collection of the British Royal Family. The Royal Collection is the largest collection of art held by any private collector.

scene from Beggars Opera 
William Hogarth

Theatre Scene Paintings: Hogarth's connection with the theatre paid him a rich dividend. It helped him financially. Moreover, the theatre-connection helped him in finding the subjects to paint. During his time, the Beggar's Opera was very popular among the people.  

Hogarth painted at least six paintings from this opera, depicting the scenes of the opera. In this painting, A scene from Beggars Opera, We can see how the artist Hogarth had tried to show the dramatic scene; he painted the lively movement of the characters of the opera, he embedded the feel of the passionate dialogues, and he narrated the whole story of the costumes. Such depiction of the theatre stories was a fashion at that point in time. Hogarth had proved one proverb. The proverb goes like this, " The artist writes the history of mankind more accurately than a historian writes". [All the paintings are in Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons.] 

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