William Hogarth is the father of satirical caricatures and moral paintings, a genre which would later develop into cartoons and one of the most innovative artists of his generation, depicting 18th-century life, culture and his middle-class upbringing.
Born 1697, in a time of social and moral depravity into a poor, middle-class family, he lived in debtors' lodging for five years as a very young boy and had seen the dark side of life. Hogarth started work as an apprentice of Ellis Gamble, a plate engraver, at the age of 16. He developed his artistic skills by attending Sir James Thornhill's Academy of art in London's Covent Garden and gained popularity for his prints that brought art to the common man for the first time in history.
From 1731 onwards, Hogarth produced what was to become known as his 'modern morality' paintings. These were specifically designed to be copied in large numbers and sold as prints to members of the public. The deterioration of British morals particularly concerned him and his satirical engravings illustrate his concerns for his fellow countrymen.
He created a new school of English painting to rival the Old Masters of the Renaissance. Technological advances allowed his engravings to be sold in large numbers to people who would not have been able to previously afford art.
His series of moral paintings, such as A Harlot's Progress and A Rake's Progress took a satirical look at the social order of the day and highlighted the best and worst parts of English culture.
The principals of this work relied heavily on what Hogarth described as 'the Line of Beauty', the serpentine line which was incorporated into much of his work.