Famous for being an English painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic and editorial cartoonist, William Hogarth had created works ranging from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of picture and they are mostly satiric caricatures that were sometimes bawdily sexual in the top echelons of realistic portraiture. He was easily the most significant English artist of his time. He lived in a house in Chiswick adjacent to the A4 that now belongs to the London Borough of Hounslow. It is open to visitors as a historic house museum and entry is free. It is now a Grade I listed building.
Located next to the busy six lane road that leads from the Hogarth Roundabout to the M4, which is one of the main entry and exit routes into London from the west, Hogarth House in Chiswick is not very conspicuous and as such, it can easily be missed but once it catches your eye, you will be convinced that it will be a worth-seeing building. If you see it from the road, you will find it on the left and you can see a high garden wall running to the right. It is in the midst of plenty of activities for construction of apartment buildings coming up in the background. Originally a part of a larger orchard, the ground on which the building stands was inherited by James Downes in 1713 and he built the house in one corner of the orchard. Hogarth bought the house in 1749 from the widow of Ruperti, a Pastor, who was a very wealthy person.
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The house was to the northeast of the village of Chiswick, being the last in the lane approaching Chiswick Common Field. However, the rural scenario of the 18th century has changed with the result that the Hogarth Roundabout is now on the far left and the six lane A4 runs from left to right, immediately in front of Hogarth’s House and the garden wall.
The reason why Hogarth moved to a house in Chiswick, which was mainly countryside at that time, from his residence in central London was probably because of the heat wave in the summer of 1749. Moreover, Chiswick was where many of Hogarth’s friends lived. At the time of purchase, the house was a three storey brick-built building having wood paneled walls. IN 1750, Hogarth extended the house by building an extra room on each floor. A first floor room in a building in the garden was used by Hogarth for painting. A large oriel window was also added by Hogarth in the centre of the house.
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Hogarth died in 1764 after having lived in the house for 15 years and his wife Jae continued to do so until her death in 1789. Jane’s cousin. Mary Lewis inherited the house as she had supported Jane by continuing the business of selling Hogarth’s prints. She also inherited the printing plates. Mary died in 1808 and the house was given to Richard Lovejoy who was probably Hogarth’s doctor, but he owned the house for 4 years only as he died in 1812.
During the 19th century, a succession of people owned it and presently the area has seen a lot of changes with the construction of houses and the growth of industry including Griffen Brewery of Fuller, Smith and Turners that has swept away the fields that might have been familiar to Hogarth.
In 1901, there was a proposal to build new homes after pulling down Hogarth’s House. However, it was finally purchased for £1,500 by a Lieutenant Colonel William Shipway, who also paid for the restoration of the house, after which it was opened to visitors in 1904. Shipway gifted the house to Middlesex County Council in 1909 and custodians were appointed to live in it free in return for showing visitors around the house.
In 1940 a landmine fell nearby causing considerable damage to the house, which was repaired the same year. Further restoration work was started in 2008 and the fully restored house finally opened in 2011. The restoration of the house has been done superbly and it gives a good impression particularly because of the wood paneling and layout of the floors and shape of the rooms that give an insight into what the house would have appeared when Hogarth was staying there.
There are six lanes of traffic running along the road into and out of London which gives a completely different scenario to what Hogarth might have been able to see through his window as it was then a narrow and dirty lane leading towards one entrance to the grounds of the house. The red-bricked house, which was once occupied by Hogarth and still bears his name, still stands. If you look from the rear of the house, you can see the unusual shape of the building.
Throughout the house, there are several copies of Hogarth’s drawings as are six prints from the series “The Harlot’s Progress” the first of his sets of prints. 1,240 sets of prints of the Harlot’s Progress sold at one guinea per set. Hogarth was interred in the nearby church of St Nicholas which is towards the end of this road on the right before reaching the River Thames. The River Thames is very close to the church and on the side of the churchyard wall is a plaque recording one of the floods when the Thames overflowed the very shallow banks along this part of the river.