The Times The Sleeping
The Company
of Undertakers
The Five Orders
of Perriwigs
Sallying Forth

William Hogarth (1697-1764) occupies a unique position in the history of comic art: a successful painter, he eventually tired of selling portraits to aristocratic patrons and decided instead to earn his living by making prints for the middle class. He knew his way around the print trade, having served his apprenticeship in the shop of a silverplate engraver, and having published prints on his own account as early as 1721. He made his debut with "The South Sea Scheme," castigating the greed and folly of speculators ruined by the collapse of the South Sea Company. A few years later he received a commission to engrave a portfolio of prints illustrating Samuel Butler's Hudibras. Although he could have lived comfortably as a trade engraver, he turned to portrait painting under the influence and sponsorship of his teacher Sir James Thornhill, who later became his father-in-law (somewhat against his will). Hogarth succeeded in building a reputation as a serious painter specializing in "conversation pictures" or portrait groups, exhibited in his Covent Garden studio and sold at public auction. Seeking a wider circulation for his work, he returned to satire with A Harlot's Progress, a suite of six prints that proved to be so popular that he sold more than a thousand sets. These prints were especially profitable because he sold them directly to the public by subscription, rather than relying on an intermediary in the print trade. Hogarth capitalized on his success with other moralizing series, such as A Rake's Progress (1735), Industry and Idleness (1747) and The Four Stages of Cruelty (1751). For more information about Hogarth's printmaking career, see Hogarth's Graphic Works, 3rd revised edition (London : Print Room, 1989), compiled by Ronald Paulson. Although far from complete, Princeton's Hogarth collection includes many of the most important prints in good impressions.

The Princeton University Library is strong in the work of eighteenth and nineteenth-century cartoonists such as William Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray, and George Cruikshank. Although he also made his name as a serious painter, Hogarth made his living as an engraver of humorous themes, many of which recur in the work of Rowlandson, Gillray and Cruikshank.