Born in 1697 in London William Hogarth entered an apprenticeship under a silversmith named Gamble and learned the craft of engraving Coat of Arms and inscriptions onto plate. William Hogarth then entered the Academy in St Martins Lane to study drawing. Between 1723 30 William Hogarth obtained commissions to design illustrations for a number of publications including folio prints for Aubrey de la Mortrayes Travels. Although William Hogarth had no success as a classical painter, his undoubted ability to capture a likeness enabled him to obtain a considerable number of portrait commissions.
It was 1733 that the third scene of the Harlots Progress was printed and a copy of it was shown by one of the Lords of the Treasury to a number of his colleagues. One of the figures portrayed is that of Sir John Gonson a celebrated magistrate who was particularly harsh with his treatment of prostitute, recognising the likeness, the Lords of the Treasury rose, almost as one man, went to the print shop and bought copies. This led to eighteenth century pop mania, over 1200 subscribers entered their names for the plates which were copied and imitated on fan mounts and a variety of forms.
William Hogarth was the first artist to make a living as a humorist and his brilliance was to invent a means of reproducing a wit, which was capable of wide public consumption. William Hogarth displayed a fresh and engaging perspective by portraying sarcasm, sincerity and brutal truth. William Hogarth tore through the fashionably elegant veneer overlaying society and the Establishment, exposing the corruption, vice, degradation and social injustice, which threatened the fabric of the British Nation. William Hogarth had no time for the pomposities of his fashionable contemporaries, making him a great many enemies with his penetrating vision and accuracy of his comment. But his integrity and wit won him a multitude of admirers.
Exposing follies and the brutality of eighteenth century society paved the way for many social reforms, re establishment of great stature of English painting.
He was a commentator, delighting the eye and provoking the mind, a perceptive observer producing illustrations of the social and political conduct of his day.
His paintings served a dual purpose as careful preparation for the engravings and as paintings in their own right worthy of being engraved.
In Rakes Progress his procedure was to employ etching for his base over the entire plate and then to work up the texture, tone and contrast with the burin.