prints after William Hogarth

Beggar’s Opera, Act III, engraved by William Blake


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In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Prints after William Hogarth 1697–1764
Etching and line engraving on paper
Image: 402 × 539 mm
Transferred from the reference collection 1973

Display caption

In 1772 Blake was apprenticed for seven years to James Basire (1730-1802), a successful copper plate engraver, before entering the Royal Academy Schools in 1779 to study as an engraver.
Blake's training under Basire meant that he was able to make a living engraving other artists' work for book illustrations and for separate prints. Importantly, it also provided him with skills which enabled him to develop as a highly original printmaker.
The print after Hogarth was commissioned and published by the greatest printseller of the day, John Boydell. It first appeared in 1788 but this is a later impression. In Boydell's 'Catalogue of Plates', also displayed here, Blake's print is listed on page 21, as no.104.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

T01801 After William Hogarth: The Beggar's Opera, Act III 1790

T01801/ -

Etching and engraving 402 × 539 (15 1/2×21 3/16) on wove paper, cut irregularly, 470 × 620 (18 1/2 × 24 3/8); platemark 457×582 (17 15/16×22 7/8)
Engraved inscriptions; ‘BEGGAR'S OPERA, ACT III.’, ‘“When my hero in Court appears, &c.”’, ‘From the Original Picture, in the Collection of his Grace the Duke of Leeds.’, Painted by Wm Hogarth.', ‘Engraved by Wm Blake.’, ‘Size of the picture 1/24 by 1/30 .. long.’, ‘Publish'd July IV 1790, by J. and J. Boydell, Cheapside, & at the Shakspeare Gallery Pall Mall London’.
Presented by Sir Geoffrey Keynes 1933; transferred from the reference collection 1973
PROVENANCE ...; Sir Geoffrey Keynes
LITERATURE Keynes Separate Plates 1956, pp.73–4; Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis and Philip Hofer, ‘The Beggar's Opera’ by Hogarth and Blake, 1965; Bentley Blake Books 1977, pp.581–4; Mitchell 1978, pp.45–6; Essick Printmaker 1980, pp.18–19, 50, 58–9; Essick Separate Plates 1983, p.252 no.LXI

This is an example of the last of the four known states of Blake's engraving after the famous painting by Hogarth. There are in fact six oil paintings of the subject by Hogarth which fall into two main groups. Blake's engraving is after the first example in the second group which was acquired by the 4th Duke of Leeds at the John Rich sale in 1792 and remained with the Duke of Leeds until 1961; it is now in the Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. The Tate Gallery owns Hogarth's own replica of this version painted two years later in 1731 (N02437; see Elizabeth Einberg and Judy Egerton, Tate Gallery Collections: Volume 2: The Age of Hogarth; British Painters born 1675–1709, 1988, pp.74–81 no.87, all versions repr.).

Blake's engraving was issued both separately and as no.103 of The Original Works of William Hogarth, published and sold by John and Josiah Boydell at the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall Mall, and no.90, Cheapside, London in 1790; it reappeared in subsequent editions of the same publication, with varied titles, in ?1795, 1822 and later. The 1790 issue contains impressions of either the third or fourth state; the two earlier states are known only as separate prints.

The first state, which is in etching alone, bears the imprint ‘Painted Willm Hogarth 1729’, ‘Etch'd by Willm Blake 1788’, and ‘publish'd October 29: 1788: by Aldm Boydell & Co. Cheapside’ (repr. Lewis and Hofer 1965, pl.VIII). The rare second state retains the 1788 imprint but the image has been completed (repr. Essick 1980, pl.48). The third state has the same imprint as the fourth except that the size is omitted and the letters of the title are left open rather than filled with hatching. The original copper-plate was in the collection of the late Philip Hofer and a modern restrike was included in each copy of Lewis and Hofer 1965 (pl.XI).

Published in:
Martin Butlin, William Blake 1757-1827, Tate Gallery Collections, V, London 1990

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