William Hogarth was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures called ‘modern moral subjects’, perhaps best known being his moral series ‘A Harlot's Progress’, ‘A Rake's Progress’ and ‘Marriage A-la-Mode’. Knowledge of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as Hogarthian.
Hogarth was born in London to a lower middle-class family. In his youth he took up an apprenticeship where he specialised in engraving. His father underwent periods of mixed fortune, and was at one time imprisoned in lieu of outstanding debts; an event that is thought to have informed William's paintings and prints with a hard edge.
Influenced by French and Italian painting and engraving, Hogarth's works are mostly satirical caricatures, sometimes bawdily sexual, mostly of the first rank of realistic portraiture. They became widely popular and mass-produced via prints in his lifetime, and he was by far the most significant English artist of his generation.