William Hogarth: Painter of Portraits and Opera

If coffee and art have any overt or covert connection between them, the British painter Hogarth (1696–1764) would be a befitting specimen to prove it; he was son of a coffee house owner. But the fate painted Hogarth’s life with colour of loss; he lost his father before he completed the apprenticeship as engraver. Thus in addition to coffee, he was to arrange bread for his family, too. He did it using his art well.

Miss Mary Edwards, 1742

Hogarth had close connection with theatre and drama; he painted and engraved many scenes from well-known operas. His craftsmanship using the diverse means of colours and their characteristics was unmatched. So was his personal life; his personal life was full of dramatic incidents, one being his marriage with his mentor’s daughter by dramatic act of eloping. This act of bravery made him to start the conventional work of portraying the wealthy people. [Image courtesy William Hogarth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

Living in London in the time of Hogarth was like stubbing on some terrible game of snakes and ladder. But he kept ascending the ladder of his artistic career. The painting given above is the portrait of Miss Mary Edwards. She was Hogarth’s close friend and the lady good luck, by virtue of an inheritance, had helped her to become a suddenly one of the richest women in contemporary England.

Hogarth’s art of portraying was at its height in this period. And before Mary Edwards died, after three years of making this portrait, he did his job well, by embedding her enormous wealth in jewellery painted in the portrait. The vigorous handling of the ruffles of the clothes and the liveliness on the face of the dog show how perfect he was in his art.

His connection with the theater paid him rich divided in experience and helped in finding the subjects to paint. During his time, the Beggar's Opera was very popular among the people. Hogarth painted at least six paintings from this depicting the scenes of that opera.

A scene from Beggars Opera [ William Hogarth [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons ]

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