This final volume takes Hogarth from his 53rd year to his death at 67. The period opens with Hogarth at the height of his powers; a figure of influence with the literary generation of Richardson and Fielding, he was known to an unprecedented spectrum of English men and women. At this point, Hogarth chose to philosophise about art, extending his successful practice into aesthetic theory, in "The Analysis of Beauty", partly in reaction to the agitation for an art academy based on the French model, partly out of conviction that his art required verbal validation, and partly (some contemporaries felt) out of hubris. And at the same moment, the hard-won fabric of his reputation began to unravel. A new generation had arisen - some friendly and interested in building on Hogarth's achievement, but some determined to supercede what seemed to be, in England of the 1750's, too insular a figure to represent English art and culture to the world. The consequences - given his own doggedness and the shifting of allegiances of former friends - were tumultous and darkened the last years of Hogarth's life, pushing him to extremes of theory, practice and self-justification.
For the first time in his career he found himself apparently out of step with his times. Although these cannot be called happy years, they elicited from Hogarth some of his most brilliant and audacious works, in writing as well as in painting and engraving. In many ways he had already, by 1750, anticipated the Reynolds generation, pointing the way into the Promised land, but disagreeing over the nature of that promise. More than the earlier two volumes, this book focuses on the reception of Hogarth and his works. The paranoid strain in Hogarth responded to the notion of being attacked; and this also reflected his increasing fear ofthe general audience he had himself helped to create as no longer a public but a crowd.
Ronald Paulson is Mayer Professor of Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University. He is Hogarth's foremost biographer and is a noted critic of 18th Century art and literature. The publication of his biography helped gain recognition for Hogarth as a central figure in British art and culture.