William Hogarth (born 1697) is a greatly renowned British painter and engraver of portraits and realist scenes. As Beer Street and Gin Lane are engravings, I will largely focus on this area of his work. He started using the technique when he was "apprenticed 1714 to silversmith Ellis Gamble as ornamental engraver, worked independently from c. 1720 [ref]"
"Early satirical works included an Emblematical Print on the South Sea Scheme (c.1721), about the disastrous stock market crash of 1720 known as the South Sea Bubble, in which many English people lost a great deal of money [ref]." This is also one of his first independent engravings. "Almost all his copper plates survived until the early part of this century and were frequently reprinted, with the consequence that many worn and re-worked impressions exist [ref]."
"Although a fine portrait-painter, he is best remembered for his 'Modern Moral Subjects', combining a rococo style with satirical comment on contemporary society. His first great success in this genre came in 1732 with A Harlot's Progress [ref]."
In 1731, Hogarth started creating moral based work, 'A Harlot's Progress' being one of the earliest. This is perhaps what led to Fielding proposing the idea of an anti-gin piece to the artist. His morals generally correlated with that of a Protestant.
He was able to create characters from what he knew, he himself having witness the poverty of London. "Hogarth had a childhood blighted by the years his father spent in debtors' prison. He was also familiar with the dark bulk of Newgate Prison, now demolished, then just up the road from Smithfield. From here, every six weeks or so, condemned prisoners would be carted along what is now Oxford Street to the communal gallows at Tyburn - opposite present-day Speakers' Corner [ref]."
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