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Genuine, original William Hogarth engravings and etchings from Darvill's Rare Prints

William Hogarth was an English painter and printmaker who poignantly commented the English society of the eighteenth century with biting satire. The career and life of Hogarth were as unusual as his prints.

William was born as the son of a shopkeeper (his mother) and a schoolmaster and publisher. The youth of William was overshadowed by the chronic financial problems of his father, who was even imprisoned because of his debts. This humiliating experience formed Hogarth for the rest of his life.

Hogarth started an apprenticeship as a silversmith in 1714, but never finished it. He then tried his luck as an independent engraver for copper plates. His early commissions were for cards, book illustrations and single prints. In 1720, he registered at the John Vanderbank Art Academy. Around 1726 or earlier, he was taught painting by James Thornhill whose daughter he later married. He earned some reputation for theater decoration paintings.

Hogarth experienced his first big financial success with A Harlot's Progress, a series of paintings from which he produced engravings in 1732. Only the engravings survived. The paintings were lost in a fire in 1755.

A Harlot's Progress is a set of 6 prints about the hapless life of a prostitute. It was a completely new kind of genre prints that were referred as moral history subjects.

After the big success of A Harlot's Progress, Hogarth published a male counterpart series, A Rake's Progress - a story in eight plates showing the decline of a promising young man into a life of drinking and immoral behavior.

In 1743, the painting series Marriage à la Mode was completed. It is considered his masterpiece. In Marriage à la Mode Hogarth turned his satire on the follies of the upper classes. The theme of this series is about marriage for money. Although the prints of Marriage à la Mode sold well, the paintings did not. Therefore all prints designed afterwards, were created exclusively as print designs without any painted counterparts.

In 1747 followed the series Industry and Idleness, a moral story of an idle and an industrious apprentice in twelve plates.

In 1753 Hogarth wrote his book The Analysis of Beauty, a wrap-up of his artistic and esthetic principles.

Hogarth was a very controversial and individual character. Driven by a sense for justice, he missed no chance to get into a quarrel with his contemporaries. His most hated enemy was the British politician John Wilkes, whom he had ridiculed in one of his engravings. William Hogarth died on October 26, 1764.

Excerpt from Engravings by Hogarth
edited by Sean Shesgreen
[Dover, 1973]


John Wilkes, offended at the anti-middle-class bias of Hogarth's The Times, Plate I, attacked the artist's character and his work, particularly his history of painting and his Analysis, in the North Briton No. 17. Shortly afterward, Wilkes criticized George III's defense of the Peace of Paris in the North Briton No. 45 (suggesting numerically the last Stuart uprising). For disrespect to the king, Wilkes was unjustly arrested and jailed, but, in a decision that reaffirmed fundamental liberties, he was acquitted. At the trial, according to Wilkes' comrade, Charles Churchill,

Lurking, most ruffian-like, behind a screen
So plac'd all things to see, himself unseen
Virtue, with due contempt, saw Hogarth stand
The murd'rous pencil in his palsied hand.

Significantly, Hogarth classes this work with his popular genre of criminal portraits. Wilkes sits on a chair holding the Cap of Liberty on the Staff of Maintenance; beside him are a table with his writing stand and his attacks on Hogarth and the king, both apparently of equal and unrelated significance. Leaning forward in an ingratiating, intimate manner, Wilkes wears a leer on his face. His mouth is twisted in mockery, and the pupils of his eyes are disturbingly crossed. His wig is fashioned to suggest that he wears fiendish or demonic horns. Wilkes emerges in the portrait as a man of treacherous, unprincipled character, shifty, cynical, and derisive.

Portrait of John Wilkes
(click image to enlarge)

"Portrait of John Wilkes"

Original 200-year-old engraving

(Heath edition, 1822)

Sheet size: approx. 18 3/4 x 25 inches

Condition: Excellent


Portrait of John Wilkes
(click image to enlarge)

"Portrait of John Wilkes"

(Cook edition, 1796-1803)

Sheet size: approx. 16 3/4 x 12 inches

Condition: Excellent
Very light foxing confined to margin, trimmed down from full sheet


John Wilkes Esq.
(click image to enlarge)

John Wilkes, Esq.

"The Complete Works of William Hogarth"
(Mackenzie, London, 1870)

Sheet size: 8 3/4 x 12 1/4 inches
engraving on steel

Condition: Very Good/Excellent
Scattered light fox marks upper right margin

(note: entire sheet is too large to scan)


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