from The New Book of Knowledge®
William Hogarth was a leading English artist of the early 1700's. A painter and engraver, he is known for satirical works that comment on the vices of his age.
Hogarth was born in London, England, on November 10, 1697. He began his career as an apprentice to a silver engraver. As an engraver he made book illustrations and social and political cartoons. His first major success as a painter came with The Beggar's Opera (1728), a painting representing a scene from John Gay's play of the same name. An insightful portraitist, he soon became known for his "conversation pieces"--intimate, small-scale group portraits.
Hogarth established a new type of painting called the modern moral subject, in which a story from contemporary life is told in a series of paintings. Copies of these paintings were engraved and circulated widely. Two examples are A Rake's Progress (1735), which shows the fall of a rich but foolish young man, and Marriage à la Mode (1745), which depicts the collapse of an upper-class marriage. Hogarth's engravings have similar moral themes, dealing with such subjects as cruelty and the evils of drink.
Toward the end of his career, Hogarth wrote The Analysis of Beauty (1753). In this book he argued that the serpentine line, or S-shaped curve, is the origin of all visual beauty. His use of this line contributed to the animation and grace of his art.
Hogarth died on October 26, 1764, in Chiswick, England. To this day, his work is admired for its sparkling wit and brilliant technique.
University of California, Santa Barbara