William Hogarth (1697–1764) died at his house in Leicester Fields during the night of 25 October 1764. He had been ill for over a month and after going to bed that night, ‘was seized with a vomiting, and rang his bell with such violence that he broke it, and expired about two hours afterwards in the arms of Mrs Mary Lewis, who was called on his being taken suddenly ill.’
His body was taken back to Chiswick, west of London, where he lived with his wife Jane, and buried close to the Thames in the cemetery of St Nicholas’s Church. A tribute to the artist appeared in the London Evening Post on 28 October ascribing to Hogarth,
the utmost force of human genius, an incomparable understanding, an inflexible integrity, and a most benevolent heart. No man was better acquainted with the human passions, nor endeavoured to make them more subservient to the reformation of the world, than this inimitable artist. His works will continue to be held in the highest estimation, so long as sense, genius and virtue, shall remain among us; and whilst tender feelings of humanity can be affected by the follies and vice of mankind.
In the centuries since his death Hogarth has continued to be a major figure in the history of British art. As one of the earliest native-born British artists of note who gained huge popular appeal for his satirical portrayal of eighteenth-century British society, he has often been referred to as the ‘father’ of British art. Yet despite Tate being founded as the national gallery of British art, works by Hogarth were not on display at Millbank for the first twenty years of its existence.
When pictures by him were transferred to Tate from the National Gallery after the First World War, however, they became the earliest works on display at Tate and remained so for the next thirty years. Hogarth became the starting point for the story of British art, reinforcing his patriarchal status.
As one of the most important British artists, his representation in Tate’s collection has grown over the years and includes some of his most iconic images – though this is mainly limited to his activities as a painter, and not as an engraver and print publisher.
Important exhibitions and displays of his work have been held at Millbank, both at the old Tate Gallery and the new Tate Britain, as his life, work and place in British art continue to be reassessed and celebrated.