12 of the Most Famous Paintings by William Hogarth

These are the 12 most famous paintings by William Hogarth, who was not only an artist, painter, and engraver but also a social critic and writer. He was the first English-born artist to gain popularity abroad and is best known for his satirical art that influenced Romantic literature more than the art itself.

March of the Guards to Finchley (1750)

This painting is one of the most famous paintings by William Hogarth and depicts the Guard’s division of the British Army, setting out to protect London in 1745. The threat to the city was the second Jacobite Rebellion. The painting depicts the chaos associated with a traveling army.

The viewer can feel the atmosphere after observing the characters such as the pregnant woman who embodies the worry in society about orphaned children, or the milkmaid who is roughly kissed by a soldier and the collapsed man in the right corner who is refusing water whilst holding out a hand to a woman offering him gin.

Marriage à-la-mode, After the old Earl’s funeral (1743-1745)

This painting is one of the six satirical paintings of the Marriage à-la-mode series: The Marriage Settlement, The Tête à Tête, The Inspection, The Toilette, The Bagnio, and The Lady’s Death. This painting is called The Toilette and is the fourth canvas in the series. The old earl has died, so the son and his wife become the new earl countess. The countess is depicted holding a reception during her “toilette”, her grooming in her bedroom. The coronet over the bed and over the mirror are indications that the old earl has died.

The Painter and his Pug (1745)

The X-ray analysis of this painting shows that the previous version of this painting shows the artist in a formal coat and a wig that was later changed to a more informal cap and clothes. Hogarth’s pug, named Trump, is an emblem of the artist’s own pugnacious character.

Eva Marie Veigel and husband David Garrick (1757–1764)

David was a celebrated actor-manager who was one of the most frequently painted subjects in 18th-century Britain. He and Hogarth were close friends, but Garrick was unsatisfied with this portrait. He was displeased with his likeness and there are signs that the artist scored through eyes, and even though Garrick paid for the painting, the work itself was found in Hogarth’s studio.

Before (1731)

This painting depicts a young man in red who attempts to pull a young woman onto a bed, and a small dog who is barking, alarmed by their action. It was supposedly commissioned by a nobleman, Duke of Montague together with the painting After.

After (1731)

This painting was inspired by the poem Pastoral Seduction. The man is standing and pulling his breeches after successfully seducing the young woman. The overturned table and broken mirror symbolize the woman’s shattered life now that she has lost her purity.

Marriage à-la-mode, Shortly After the Marriage (1743-1745)

This painting is the first one of the six satirical paintings of the Marriage à-la-mode series. It depicts several characters introduced in this very painting: Lord Squanderfield, the man facing out the window, the man standing at the table (Earl’s creditor), the Alderman (who is seated), the lawyer Silvertongue (standing next to the bride), Viscount Squanderfield (Lord’s son) and the bride.

An Election Entertainment (1755)

This work was inspired by the Oxfordshire election of 1754 in which the Whigs decided to challenge Troy’s stronghold of Oxford by contesting the election, leading to a disputed result and Parliament deciding on the winner. Hogarth showed the four “humors” of an election, which begin with this scene set in a room of an inn, showing Whig election candidates gathering the support of citizens.

David Garrick as Richard III (1745)

Garrick was an English actor and theatre manager who influences nearly all aspects of European theatrical practice throughout the 18th century. He played the role of Richard III in Shakespeare’s play of the same name. Hogarth’s painting depicts the king, who had been asleep in his tent on the battlefield, being woken up from a dream in which he had seen the ghosts of the opponents he had previously murdered. The shock, fear, and surprise are well depicted on the actor’s face and this painting once again proves how skilled of a painter and a portraitist Hogarth was.

Southwark Fair (1733)

This work is also called The Humour of a Fair. The scene is filled with theatrical performances, musicians, ropedancers, and other entertaining details. On the far left the viewer can see a collapsed stage and performers clinging to the scaffold to avoid falling on the ground.

Hogarth’s Servants (1750s)

Also called Heads of Six of Hogarth’s Servants it depicts mastery of his portraiture. These six studies of heads crammed in a small space are distributed in three groups of two and are all lit by a light at the upper left.

This painting shows three women and three men of varying ages and skin tones. Each subject is looking in a different direction and all women depicted have similarly youthful appearances. The male subjects progress in age from a boy at the top center, to a mature man in the bottom center, to an elderly man in the top right. The servants are shown in their usual work clothes, showing their individual identities.

The Gate of Calais (1749)

This painting depicts a scene of beef being transported from the harbor to an English tavern in the port, while a group of French soldiers and an obese friar. Hogarth produced this painting directly after his return from France where he had been arrested as a spy while sketching in Calais. On the left of the painting, he depicted himself, with a soldier’s hand on his right shoulder.

What famous paintings by William Hogarth do you think we should add to this list? Comment below.

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