Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
William Hogarth was born in London in 1697. The collapse of his father's career as a schoolmaster early in his life meant that instead of receiving an advanced education he became apprenticed to a silversmith. Upon completion of his apprenticeship, he set up his own copper engraving shop. As he worked, Hogarth learned to paint at St. Martin's Lane Academy and Sir James Thornhill's drawing school in Covent Garden. Thornhill was a respected painter and a role model for Hogarth, who later married Thornhill's daughter. Hogarth quickly gained popularity as a painter of conversation pieces for families in the court and government. Soon he began painting "satirical and amorous scenes," like Before and After (1729) (Bindman). In this early period he also began the practice of adapting his paintings into engravings for circulation.
Looking for a way to expand his business, Hogarth began painting what he called "modern moral subjects" in 1732. In his conception, "modern moral subjects" were "pictorial narratives of contemporary-life subjects in series" (Bindman); early examples are A Harlot's Progress (1732) and A Rake's Progress (painted in 1734, published in 1735), showing the moral and physical degeneration of a young woman and a young man, respectively. The engravings Hogarth made of these series were sold by subscription. After the modern moral subjects, Hogarth began painting and engraving other scenes from contemporary life, such as Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn (1738) and the Times of Day series (1738). While the individual scenes in the modern moral subjects series showed the development of a single character, the individual scenes in the Times of Day and series like it were connected by a broad theme.
In 1743 Hogarth returned to painting modern moral subjects with the series Marriage-à-la-Mode, depicting an aristocratic couple whose lives are destroyed by their pursuit of "the high life for its own sake" (Bindman). Up until this point, Hogarth had a least a partial role in the engraving of his paintings; Marriage-à-la-Mode was his first series to be engraved entirely by other artists. A few years after Hogarth depicted life among the higher classes in his marriage scenes, he took on life among the lower classes in paintings such as Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751). With these scenes, he hoped to "reform some reigning Vices peculiar to the lower Class of People," and so made the images accessible to the masses by publishing the engravings cheaply. Hogarth continued his social commentary in later paintings-turned-engravings such as the series An Election Entertainment (1754-8), which addressed governmental corruption with reference to the Oxfordshire election of 1754; The Gate of Calais (1749), which took as its reference Hogarth's own arrest as a spy while painting the landmark; and the series The March to Finchley (1750), which represented the Scottish Invasion of the 1740's. These paintings strengthened Hogarth's reputation as a "comic history painter," a term first used to describe him by the novelist Henry Fielding.
Hogarth published The Analysis of Beauty, a treatise on his own understanding of art, in 1753. In 1757 he became the sergeant-painter to the king. In the 1750's, Hogarth took on larger scale painting projects such as the altarpiece of St. Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, while continuing his career as a satirist with works such as Credulity, Superstition, and Fanaticism (1762), a criticism of Methodist clergy.
Hogarth's growing fame, his increasing willingness to adopt specific political opinions in his art, and his vocal defense of his work made him a controversial figure toward the end of his life. His public disagreement with his friend John Wilkes—Wilkes was anti-court, while Hogarth drew closer to the court as he aged—led him to publish a caricature of Wilkes, which he paired with an engraving of Lord Lovat, a Jacobite who had been beheaded for treason some years earlier (1763). Hogarth died in 1764 while working on his autobiography and "refresh[ing] his copperplates, to bolster his posthumous reputation and produce a continuing income for his widow" (Bindman). His final work, the bleak Bathos (1764), suggests that he ended his life feeling a failure.
After he died, Hogarth's work became the object of fierce collecting. He was internationally recognized during his lifetime but became an especially important figure in Germany in the latter part of the 18th century. Between 1784 and 1796, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, a professor of Physics in the University of Göttingen and a great Anglophile, wrote a series of commentaries on Hogarth's engravings which appeared in the literary journal Göttinger Taschenkalender. Lichtenberg died before he could finish the work, but he completed commentaries for the single plates Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn and A Midnight Modern Conversation, and for the series Marriage-à-la-Mode, A Rake's Progress, A Harlot's Progress, and The Four Times of Day. He began but did not complete a commentary on the series Industry and Idleness. Lichtenberg wrote that there were two methods for commenting on Hogarth's works: the prosaic, explaining "in brief and dry terms the meaning of the items in the inventory of these pictures and specially draw[ing] attention to such objects as might be overlooked, or at least misunderstood by someone unfamiliar with either the genius of the artist or his country," and the poetic, expressing "in words everything the artist has shown pictorially, in such a way as he, Hogarth, would have said it had he been as expert with the pen as he was with the stylus" (Herdan xvi-xvii). Lichtenberg chose the latter method, though Innes and Gustav Herdan remind the readers of their translation of Lichtenberg's commentaries that more than expressing Hogarth's intentions, Lichtenberg was expressing himself: he gave readers his interpretation of Hogarth's satires (xvii). Between 1794 and 1834, the printer Joh. Christ. Dieterich published in Göttingen a set of volumes that included twelve volumes of Hogarth's images along with the commentaries Lichtenberg had finished; Dieterich used English commentaries for the plates which were included in the collection but had not been written about by Lichtenberg. Ronald Paulson, the expert on Hogarth engravings, explains that the plates are "good copies" of the originals by Ernst Riepenhausen (Paulson Vol. I, p. 81). This collection is comprised of nine of the twelve volumes of plates that were part of Dieterich's set.
This collection of Hogarth images is made up of nine portfolio volumes of about six plates each; the volumes are bound with marbled paper. There were originally twelve volumes in the set of plates, printed by Joh. Christ. Dieterich in Göttingen, Germany, between 1794 and 1834 as part of the collection Ausfürliche Erklärung der Hogarthischen Kupferstiche. Penn holds volumes 1-4 and 7-11 (no North American library holds all twelve volumes). All together, the set is a comprehensive representation of Hogarth's work, including most of his major engravings, though the plates are copies of the originals by the German engraver Ernst Riepenhausen. The set was originally accompanied by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg's commentaries on Hogarth's images; the English translation of his commentaries can be found in The World of Hogarth, by Innes and Gustav Herdan (held by the Penn Library; see Bibliographical note).
The contents of each volume are listed below. Some of the individual plates are titled as part of Riepenhausen's engraving; when this is the case the finding aid lists the item according to the present title (e.g. "The Distrest Poet" instead of the more common "The Distressed Poet"). When no title is given by Riepenhausen, as is often the case, the finding aid lists the standard title for the image given by Ronald Paulson in his book Hogarth's Graphic Works.
Each plate in the collection is numbered at the top, and this number is given in the finding aid. The numbering reflects only the order in the present collection, not a system for organizing Hogarth's works chronologically or thematically nor even the order of Lichtenberg's commentaries.
Some of Lichtenberg's engravings are reversed from Hogarth's originals, and where this is the case a note appears next to the item in the finding aid. It is unclear why this is the case, as the phenomenon is inconsistent, even throughout a series. For example, plates 3, 4 and 8 of A Rake's Progress are reversed, while all of Marriage-à-la Mode is reversed but none of A Harlot's Progress is.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Ellen Williams
- Finding Aid Date
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.