William Hogarth initially trained as an engraver and used these skills to produce prints of his paintings. He is a product of his time, and used his art to comment on eighteenth-century society, in a similar manner to the contemporary cartoonist, James Gillray. However he only satirised social life and (unlike Gillray) stayed clear of the political; in 1757 he was appointed Serjeant Painter to King George II. This position was bestowed upon him by the Duke of Devonshire, who inherited Chiswick House in 1753, making him Hogarth's neighbour. The painter had already moved to his Chiswick country home in 1749.
When Hogarth bought his house (which was built in the early part of the eighteenth century) the location was rural and four miles from London. Now it sits alongside the busy, noisy A4 dual carriageway and has lent its name to the nearby Hogarth Roundabout. In the finest satirical tradition, Martin Rowson has drawn his own cartoon of this modern day landmark.
The house has been extensively renovated and has only recently reopened after fire damage set back the restoration works. It is now widely decorated with prints of many of Hogarth's famous paintings, including Gin Lane,
and the moralistic series: Mariage à la Mode, The Rake's Progress and The Harlot's Progress. There are also personal family items that have been loaned to the house from other museums. The furniture dates back to 1904 (when the house was originally opened as a museum) and was commissioned to replicate pieces from the eighteenth century.
The ground and first floors are the only ones open to the public, and the sizes of the rooms makes you realise that this was not a grand house. Most of the public rooms are smaller than would be found in a contemporary family home.
All have been faithfully restored and redecorated in shades of grey, using samples of the 23 layers of paint taken from various parts of the house. The original fireplaces have also been opened up again, the panelling restored and the floorboards revealed.
William died in 1764 but the house was still occupied by his widow, Jane, and other family members until 1808. This latest refurbishment has been a long time in its completion and the house is worth visiting for anybody interested in Hogarth, art or the eighteenth century. If you hurry up you may still be able to smell the new paint!