A Scene from The Beggar's Opera
William Hogarth

William Hogarth

1697 - 1764

Hogarth began painting in 1727, soon producing life-size portraits and 'comic histories' such as The Rake's Progress and Marriage à-la-mode. An abrasive social commentator, he was appointed Sergeant Painter to George II in 1757. At a time when foreign artists flocked to London, Hogarth was concerned with the status of native artists, recommending that they seek inspiration from the infinite variety of contemporary human existence and advocating for the Englishness of English art. He wrote The Analysis of Beauty in 1753, which argued that shapes and colours in nature are geared towards 'entertaining the eye with the pleasure of variety.' His engravings were more highly esteemed in his time than his paintings.

Text © National Portrait Gallery, London