Visual Culture in Early Modern Britain: Wenceslaus Hollar and William Hogarth

Wenceslaus Hollar, 1607-1677

Wenceslaus Hollar Self Portrait - Met Museum.jpg

Wenceslaus Hollar, 1649

Met Museum, Public Domain

Wenceslaus Hollar was born on July 23, 1607, on Clothmakers’ Street, Prague, Bohemia. Despite his father’s desire for him to pursue a bureautic or legal career, he became an artist. In 1627, at the age of twenty, Hollar left Prague because of Ferdinand II's requirement that all Bohemian nobility either emigrate or convert to Catholicism. From November of 1627 to 1634, Hollar traveled to Stuttgart, Strasbourg, Frankfurt am Main, Rhine to Mainz and Amsterdam. During this period, he focused his work on landscapes (Harding, ODNB).

From 1636 to 1639, Hollar worked under Arundel House, where he created mainly paintings and drawings for Countess Arundel in London. In 1640, however, he took an interest in women’s fashion. Around this time, he met his future wife, Margaret Tracy, whom he married in 1641. In the middle of his career, he left London and traveled to Antwerp, where he continued to work on women's fashion from 1642 to 1649 (Harding, ODNB).

In 1651, Hollar returned to London, where he met John Ogilby and created etchings for the reissued edition of Ogilby’s Aesop Fables. In 1656, he married again. In 1660, Hollar created large maps of London; these maps were ultimately lost in the Great Fire of London in 1666.  Hollar died on March 25, 1677, at his home in Gardener’s Lane, Westminster (Harding, ODNB).

Aesop's Fables

Hollar and Ogilby's creation of an illustrated edition of Aesop's Fables was meant to give their audience an escape.  The combination of Hollar etchings and Ogilby's text created a powerful message, encouraging individuals to move on past their grievances and focus on their future. The two focused their work on the underlying morals connected to each etching.

- Katie Lambertson

Illustrations of Aesop's Fables

William Hogarth

William-Hogarth - National Portrait Gallery.jpg

William Hogarth, 1757-1758

National Portrait Gallery, London, CC

William Hogarth was born November 10, 1697, in London, England. Hogarth was an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, and social critic. He was born into a lower-middle-class family. His parents are failed author Richard Hogarth and a schoolmaster by the name of Anne Gibbons. From a young age, Hogarth’s talent was evident. Because of his father’s failed career, Hogarth had no chance of attending university or professional training. Instead, he accepted an apprenticeship at a silver workshop but was still determined to rise in the world. After his apprenticeship, he began making his own engraved designs in 1710. Later, he took up oil painting and started with small portrait groups called conversation pieces (Bindman, ODNB). 

William Hogarth is best known for his modern moral subjects, Hogarth’s modern moral series was first created as paintings and then engraved to be more widely distributed to his audience. Each painting in the series was set in chronological order of satirical episodes illustrating his opinion of the moral shortcomings of eighteenth-century English society (Bindman, ODNB).

Visual Culture in Early Modern Britain: Wenceslaus Hollar and William Hogarth