William Hogarth —Page 5

The final picture from William Hogarth’s series Industry & Idleness shows Thomas Idle arriving for his execution at the gallows at Tyburn, accompanied by his coffin. In the foreground the woman is selling fraudulent copies of “The last dying speech & confession of Tho. Idle”, which he clearly has not yet made, as often occurred at the time. Hogarth produced Industry & Idleness as a series of twelve prints, sold for one shilling each, in 1747.

Hogarth initially took no part in the Society of Artists that was founded in 1759 and later evolved into the Royal Academy. When he finally exhibited at the annual exhibition in 1761 he was angered by criticism of his entry and never again publicly exhibited his work. In his 60s his health began to fail and he suffered anxiety regarding criticism from his peers, his failure to be accepted as a great master, and by being eclipsed in prestige by the likes of Reynolds and Allan Ramsay.

Hogarth was a pugnacious man of independent mind and methods, eager to fight any members of the London art-world with whom he disagreed. During his life he made a number of friends who remained loyal but he also angered many others who were happy to see him fail. He died a bitter man at his home at Leicester Fields in October 1764 and was buried in the graveyard of St. Nicholas church at Chiswick. Following the expiry of her husband’s copyrights in 1787, and with reduced income, his wife Anne was awarded a pension by the Royal Academy despite William’s refusal to become a member.

Sources include: Jenny Uglow ‘Hogarth – A Life and a World’; Mark Hallett & Christine Riding ‘Hogarth’; Michael Rosenthal ‘Hogarth’; Jean Benedetti ‘David Garrick; Par Rogers ‘Henry Fielding; Christopher Hibbert ‘ The Personal History of Samuel Johnson’.

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