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Mar/Apr 2010

William Hogarth's The Painter and His PugDefining the “Line of Beauty”

Author Affiliations

Norman J.PastorekMDAuthor Affiliation:Department of Orthodontics, St George’s Hospital Medical School, London, England.

Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2010;12(2):136-137. doi:10.1001/archfacial.2009.108

The first great English-born artist to attract admiration abroad, William Hogarth (1697-1764), was a noted satirist and critic of art and society whose fame derived from his comic yet moral narrative engravings that satirized the vices and affectations of his age. His work marked a new direction in English art.

Hogarth was the only son of Richard Hogarth, a classical scholar and schoolmaster. He grew up with his 2 sisters in the heart of London. Hogarth witnessed firsthand his father's dishonorable treatment at the hands of wealthy patrons and publishers, which fostered much of his own independence of character. At the age of 15 years, Hogarth served as an apprentice to a silversmith, from whom he learned to engrave gold and silver. Yet, he became frustrated with his training and began a period of self-instruction in painting, which led to his unconventional but original approach to art in later life. Hogarth set up shop on his own when he was 23 years old and began attending a private drawing school in St Martin's Lane, where instruction was based on drawing from models and figures. He disliked such copying, which he likened to “emptying water from one vessel into another.”1(p48)This experience led him to conclude that the best paintings were those that represented actual life and human behavior. Meanwhile, Hogarth earned his living as an engraver and illustrator, although these trades brought him little satisfaction. He began to admire the work of Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734), the first knighted English artist, who affirmed the respect owed to English art and the social respectability of the artist. Hogarth subsequently studied painting under Thornhill, although he often criticized his teacher. He also began to question the taste and standards of the rich and powerful establishment, leading to the creation of powerful enemies at the start of his career; they retaliated in about 1730 by revoking royal interest in his work.2

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