Hogarth was born in London to a poor middle-class family. In his youth he took up an apprenticeship where he specialised in engraving. His father underwent periods of mixed fortune, and was at one time imprisoned in lieu of outstanding debts; an event that is thought to have informed Williams paintings and prints with a hard edge.
Influenced by French and Italian painting and engraving, Hogarths works are mostly satirical caricatures, sometimes bawdily sexual, mostly of the first rank of realistic portraiture. They became widely popular and mass-produced via prints in his lifetime, and he was by far the most significant English artist of his generation.