BP Spotlight: William Hogarth 1697–1764
Tate Britain: Display
27 October 201426 April 2015
Free

This display marks the 250th anniversary of the death of Hogarth. It includes almost all of his paintings in the Tate Collection, as well as prints, drawings and rarely seen items from the Tate Library and Archive. 

The story of art in this country often begins with William Hogarth, who died in late October 1764. Satirist, printmaker, portraitist, history painter and art theorist, in the two hundred and fifty years since his death Hogarth has regularly been positioned as the founding father of British art. This persistent notion was reflected in the early years of Tate’s displays: for decades his was the earliest British work on show at Tate.

Hogarth first gained recognition painting scenes from the theatre. He went on to make his name with his darkly humorous ‘modern moral’ series depicting the declining fortunes of foolish or ignoble characters, and brought similar vivacity to the polite interiors of his ‘conversation piece’ portraits. In 1735 he founded an academy for artists and later wrote a treatise on the aesthetic theories he developed over the course of his career. Whether painting, printmaking or writing, he was concerned with forging and defending a distinctly British art.

In 1951 Tate mounted the first major exhibition of Hogarth’s work since 1814. Tate gained independence from the National Gallery in 1955 and started acquiring works in its own right, and further exhibitions and displays followed reflecting research into Hogarth’s life and art. From the early 1950s Tate also acquired work by earlier British artists, allowing Hogarth to be seen in the context of his predecessors: an innovative champion of British art, but by no means the first British artist.