Background on Worcester's Hogarths

Hogarth's success as a printmaker helped him to achieve success as a portraitist. Painted in 1744, the portraits of William James and his wife Elizabeth James testify to Hogarth's ability not just to capture likeness with paint, but also to imbue his portraits with psychological presence. The sitters, William James (1704-1781) and Elizabeth James (1723-1798), lived in Ightham in Kent, England. In 1732, Mr. James was appointed High Sheriff of Kent by the crown.

When purchased by the Worcester Art Museum in 1909, these portraits became the first Hogarth paintings acquired by an American museum. At the time of their purchase, the desire for and popularity of English art was very strong in the US and this helps explain why the Museum willingly paid the relatively high price that it did. The paintings still have their original carved and gilded frames, which further affirmed the sitters' status.

Next: Ightham Court: former home of William and Elizabeth James
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