William Hogarth (November 10, 1697 - October 26, 1764) was a major British painter, engraver, pictorial satirist, and editorial cartoonist who has been credited as a pioneer in western sequential art. His work ranged from excellent realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called "modern moral subjects." Much of his work poked humorous, at times vicious, fun at contemporary politics and customs.
...Hogarth lived in an age, when artwork became immensely commercialized, something no longer just exhibited in churches and the homes of connoisseurs, but viewed in shopwindows, taverns and public buildings and sold in printshops. Old hierarchies broke down, and new forms began to flourish: the ballad opera, the bourgeois tragedy, and especially, a new form of fiction called the novel with which authors such as Henry Fielding had great success. Therefore, by that time, Hogarth hit on a new idea: "painting and engraving modern moral subjects ... to treat my subjects as a dramatic writer; my picture was my stage," as he himself remarked in his manuscript notes. To be sure, there were earlier artists that had depicted ordinary life, but Hogarth's moralizing was indeed revolutionary.
...The "Four Times of the Day" series shows his version of the traditional times of the day theme in art; of events taking place at morning, noon, afternoon and night. In Morning, there is an wealthy woman on the way to church, who avoids making eye contact with the couple on the right or the beggar below her, speaking of the hypocrisy of some church goers by acting pious but ignoring their fellow people. The next print, Noon, continues the theme, with well dressed people exiting the church on the right, while there are poorer people suffering on the left, a line in the middle of the picture in the road actually dividing the two classes. It shows clearly the gap in society between the upper and lower classes. While the rich look ridiculous and haughty in their fine costumes, the poor are more concerned with food and sex...
When analyzing the work of the artist as a whole, Ronald Paulson, the modern authority on Hogarth, sees an accomplished parodist at work, and a subversive. He says, "In A Harlot's Progress, every single plate but one is based on Durer's images of the story of the Virgin and the story of the Passion." In other works, he parodies Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper. According to Paulson, Hogarth is subverting the religious establishment and the orthodox belief in an immanent God who intervenes in the lives of people and produces miracles. Indeed, Hogarth was a Deist, a believer in a God who created the universe but takes no direct hand in the lives of his creations. Thus, as a "comic history painter", he often poked fun at the old-fashioned, "beaten" subjects of religious art in his paintings and prints. Hogarth also rejected Lord Shaftesbury's then current ideal of the classical Greek male in favor of the living, breathing female. He said, "Who but a bigot, even to the antiques, will say that he has not seen faces and necks, hands and arms in living women, that even the Grecian Venus doth but coarsely imitate."
...Hogarth died in London on October 26, 1764 and was buried at St. Nicholas' Churchyard, Chiswick Mall, Chiswick, London.