Hogarth, William (1697-1764) - 1740 Portrait of William Jones the Mathematician (National Portrait Gallery, London)
Oil on canvas; 50 x 40 1/4 in.
Although honored as a painter during his lifetime and the author of a treatise on painting, William Hogarth was often typecast as a satirist because of his mass-market, often satirical engravings. After an apprenticeship to an engraver of arms, Hogarth had his own engraving shop by 1720. A natural with oils, he reached the height of his reputation as a painter before the decade's end. His early works displayed French Rococo influence, then Hogarth hit on a new, more chauvinistic idea: "painting and engraving modern moral subjects. . . . to treat my subjects as a dramatic writer; my picture is my stage." Earlier artists had depicted ordinary life, but Hogarth's moralizing was revolutionary. His first caricature-filled picture-story was The Harlot's Progress of 1732. The paintings are lost, but Hogarth's engravings of them penetrated every class of society. Later series, such as The Rake's Progress and Marriage à la Mode, made Hogarth a wealthy man.
In 1740 Hogarth directed the course of British portraiture with Captain Coram, which stressed the captain's individuality rather than his social stature. He was the first British artist to be widely admired abroad, both for his paintings and for his 1753 treatise, The Analysis of Beauty.