Some founding members of the Hogarth Club from left to right Ford Madox Brown’s Self-Portrait, William Holman Hunt Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his own self-portrait, and Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones by his son. [Click on images to enlarge them and to obtain additional information.]

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he Hogarth Club was founded in 1858 with Ford Madox Brown, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Roddam Spencer Stanhope the initial driving forces behind its formation. As Holman Hunt explains in his Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, "the idea was to have a meeting-place for artists and amateurs in sympathy with us, and to use the walls for exhibiting our sketches and pictures to members and friendly visitors. It was further claimed by its founders that the Club would promote harmony among the younger members of the profession at large" (143). The Club certainly gave an opportunity for young upcoming artists and architects to form ongoing personal and professional relationships.

The possibility of establishing an exhibiting association that would give progressive artists independence of the Royal Academy had been discussed for some years even prior to this time. Further impetus had been given in 1857, the year prior to the foundation of the Hogarth Club, when some Pre-Raphaelite paintings had either been rejected or poorly hung at the Royal Academy summer exhibition. A decision was therefore made to look for a permanent exhibition facility where their works could be hung in good conditions and as well serve as a site for social activities. On April 10, 1858 an inaugural meeting was therefore held at the rooms of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones in Red Lion Square. Ford Madox Brown was elected Chairman and F. G. Stephens the Honorary Secretary. Other members of the committee looking into business details for the club included Edward Burne Jones, William Michael Rossetti, and J. R. Spencer Stanhope. Following this meeting letters relating to the formation of the club were sent out to artists who might be interested in becoming members. The name the Hogarth Club was chosen to honour William Hogarth, who in the 19th century was considered the founder of Modern English art. Ford Madox Brown, who had suggested the name, revered Hogarth as the originator of moral invention and drama in modern art. The architectural historian J. Mourdant Crook has argued that its name derived not from the eighteenth-century artist but instead from Joseph Hogarth, the fashionable printseller with premises in Haymarket (75). Although this supposition was based on an article in The Building News from 1858, it seems highly unlikely and should be rejected based on information from other contemporary sources.

Works exhibited at the Hogarth Club in 1859 from left to right: Left: Mary in the House of Saint John by D. G. Rossetti, 1858. Collection of the Delaware Art Museum, accession no. 1947-8, Special Purchase Fund, 1947. Middle left: The Good Shepherd by Edward Burne-Jones, 1857. Signed with EBJ monogram and dated 1857. Collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, accession no. E.1317-1970. Middle right: Going to the Battle by Edward Burne-Jones, 1858. Collection of Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, accession no. 1223. Right: Study of a Lemon Tree by Frederic Leighton. 1859.Private collection.

Membership of the Hogarth Club was eclectic, although most of its members were part of the wider Pre-Raphaelite circle. Members were divided into three classes – artistic, non-artistic, and honorary. The two former classes were divided into resident and non-resident members. In addition to painters and architects, members therefore also included prominent professional men who were sympathizers, writers, art collectors, and critics. The initial annual membership subscription for members decided upon was £3 10s, or if needed £4, for artistic resident members and £2 10s for non-artistic and non-resident members. By 1860 fees had risen to £5 5s for artistic resident members and £3 3s for non-resident members. Membership grew from thirty-eight in its first year to eighty-eight by 1860. Rules for members issued in March 1860 stated that the Club was limited to one hundred members, exclusive of honorary members, of who not more than fifty were to be non-artistic. The subscribing members of the Club were elected by ballot. Two black balls were sufficient to exclude a candidate, if repeated on a second ballot. The name of any gentleman proposed as a new member was to be inscribed in a book kept accessible to the members in the club rooms, together with the names of his proposer and seconder, at least one lunar month before the ballot took place. A nominee was not to be brought to the ballot without his own expressed authority. The honorary members were elected by a majority of open votes and were to be such persons only as are eminently distinguished as artists or authors, not exceeding eighteen altogether, six of this class to be foreigners.

The “artistic members” for the year 1859 included George Frederick Bodley, George Price Boyce, John Brett, Ford Madox Brown, William Shakespeare Burton, James Campbell, James Mulcaster Carrick, John Richard Clayton, Eyre Crowe, William Davis, Alfred Downing Fripp, Michael Frederick Halliday, Arthur Hughes, Alfred William Hunt, William Holman Hunt, John William Inchbold, Edward Burne Jones, Edward Lear, Frederic Leighton, Robert Braithwaite Martineau, William Morris, Thomas Morten, John Wright Oakes, John Hungerford Pollen, Val Prinsep, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, John Ruskin, William Bell Scott, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope, Frederic George Stephens, George Edmund Street, John Lucas Tupper, Henry Wallis, George Frederic Watts, Philip Webb, William Windus, Benjamin Woodward, and Thomas Woolner. Augustus Egg, John Everett Millais, and William Cave Thomas had declined an invitation to join. By 1860 the list of active artistic members had expanded to include William Burges, Frederic William Burton, Edward Henry Martineau, and Henry Clarence Whaite. A number of artists had been refused membership by being blackballed, the most surprising of which was the sculptor Alexander Munro in 1859. Although the rules did not specifically exclude women there were no female members. Almost all of these artists were outside of the Royal Academy and would have been considered part of the avant-garde of the day. In retrospect perhaps one of the most surprising members was Frederic Leighton. On January 29, 1860 he had written in a letter to Robert Browning “I am hand-in-glove with all my enemies the pre-Raphaelites” (Barrington, 52). The antagonism in general of many club members to the Royal Academy, however, eventually led Leighton to resign later that same year. Liverpool painters like James Campbell, William Davis, and W. L. Windus readily joined because they were assured of a space to exhibit and sell their works in central London as well as a place to meet and exchange views with like-minded artists.

Some portraits of the honorary members: Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, William Makepeace Thackeray, and William Henry Hunt. Click on images for additional information about them.

Honorary members of the Hogarth Club included Robert Browning, Thomas Carlyle, David Cox, Francis Danby, Eugene Delacroix, William Dyce, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Henry Hunt, John Frederick Lewis, William Mulready, Richard Owen F.R.S., Alfred Tennyson, and William Makepeace Thackeray. Non-artistic members included individuals well known as writers, Pre-Raphaelite patrons, or as friends of artists within the Pre-Raphaelite circle. They included such prominent men as Peter Augustin Daniel, John Dixon, Thomas Fairbairn of Manchester, Charles Faulkner, Major William Gillum, K. D. Hodson, Stewart Hodgson, Richard Bird Holmes, Godfrey Lushington, Vernon Lushington, Peter Paul Marshall, John Miller of Liverpool, Richard Monckton Milnes, Thomas Plint of Leeds, Cormell Price, William Michael Rossetti, and Algernon Swinburne.

Works exhibited at the Hogarth Club in 1859 and 1860 from left to right: Left: Ford Madox Brown’s watercolor version of Jesus Washing Peter's Feet Collection of Tate Britain, Reference NO5301. Bequeathed by Sir Hugh Walpole 1941. CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported). Middle left: Boca Baciata by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Collection of Boston Museum of Fine Arts, accession no. 1980.261. Middle right: The Queen was in the Parlour, Eating Bread and Honey by Val Prinsep. Collection of Manchester Art Gallery, accession no. 1938.487. Image courtesy of the Manchester Art Gallery. Right: The Irish Girl by Ford Madox Brown, 1860. Collection of Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, accession no. B1989.11.

The Hogarth Club opened at no. 178 Piccadilly in July 1858, before moving in February 1859 to larger premises at no. 6 Waterloo Place. At the latter location there was a large room with 75 to 80 feet of hanging space and a smaller room to display watercolours. The shows were strictly private and allowed members, friends, art lovers and collectors by invitation to view pictures before they were exhibited elsewhere. Sometimes artists would hang pictures that had already been displayed in other venues. In the second exhibition held in 1859 Henry Wallis hung his The Stonebreaker that had been a great success at the Royal Academy the year previously. Wallis was not the only artist to do similarly because Holman Hunt that same year sent his early masterpiece Valentine Rescuing Sylvia from Proteus, which he had previously exhibited at the Royal Academy way back in 1851, while William Davis exhibited Mary’s Well Near St Asaph that he had shown at the Royal Academy in 1859.

Displaying a painting in more than one place meant increased coverage, not to mention increased prestige, and a greater chance to sell the work. Because the Hogarth Club was a private venue works exhibited here could later be exhibited at public galleries, such as the Royal Academy, which otherwise would have disallowed works that had been exhibited previously. Tickets were sent to members that would allow their friends to be admitted to view the works of art on display or a member could also introduce a guest personally. Visitors were admitted on the condition that no publication, notice, or criticism of any kind whatever be made on the art displayed in the Club Rooms. Visitors could inspect the works on display at any time except during Club meetings. A Hanging Committee consisting of five members was appointed at the General Meeting held following Michaelmas Day each year and was entrusted with the duty of selecting and arranging the works lent by members for exhibitions. William E. Fredeman states that four exhibitions in total were mounted at the Club’s rooms. Two were held in 1859 (January 1 – February 26 and Summer), one in 1860 (February 1 – March 31) and the last in 1861 (February 1 – May 31) (letter 58.29n2, 238). The first major exhibition of works that opened in January 1859 showed eighty works, including a total of five architectural drawings by Bodley and Street. Unfortunately no catalogues were ever printed for any of the exhibitions so it is impossible to determine titles of all the works that were exhibited. Individual works either exhibited or excluded, however, can frequently be determined from artists’ correspondence, diaries, or memoirs of the period. Many of the exhibited works are mentioned in the article by Deborah Cherry. In addition to these exhibitions there were also informal showings of art works. In 1860 the first life class was held at the club, an endeavor in which John Brett was the prime mover. At the first session held on March 12, 1860 members who were present to draw included Brett, E. Burne Jones, V. Prinsep, W. M. Rossetti, G. P. Boyce, and Major Gillum.

Although Holman Hunt had initially hoped “the Club would promote harmony among the younger members of the profession at large” this certainly did not happen. Even as early as 1859 some members had already began to disagree about the displaying policy for exhibitions, and quarrels broke out between opposing groups within the club. In that year the hanging committee had refused to exhibit Madox Brown’s furniture designs because they did not consider them fine art. This led Brown to remove all his works from the already-hung exhibition and to resign on the spot. Rossetti threatened to do the same in sympathy with Brown, but fortunately Brown was persuaded to rejoin and return his works. Despite the initial opposition to exhibiting Madox Brown’s furniture designs, the club eventually allowed not only of oil paintings, watercolours, and finished drawings in its exhibitions but also architectural drawings, cartoons for stained glass, and even painted furniture.

Members also quarreled about the social activities of the Club. For Burne-Jones and Stanhope, for instance, the club was primarily a place meant for social contact, while others wanted it to concentrate solely on artistic matters. Ruskin resigned because a billiard room had been installed. In 1861 Madox Brown was reinstated as Chairman, but as membership had fallen drastically the Hogarth Club had become not financially viable without a considerably increased annual subscription fee. In order to improve the financial situation two solutions were therefore proposed at a meeting of the Hogarth Club on April 20, according to a letter from William Michael Rossetti to Scott of April 28, 1861. The first proposal was to make the Hogarth into a regular London Club for artists. An alternate motion proposed by Stanhope was that an admission charge should be made for exhibitions. This solution was comparatively indifferent as to whether the Club character was retained or not (Peattie, Letters of William Michael Rossetti, 114). Brown gave the deciding casting vote to the winning resolution introducing paying exhibitions, although this concept was not to be introduced until the following year. If this proposal had been instituted the Club would have lost the privileges it enjoyed as a semi-private society where works could be exhibited prior to their submission to the Royal Academy or to other institutions which declined works that had previously been shown to the public. This decision therefore met with a massive refusal from the membership as a whole and caused a final rift among the members. The motion with regard to paying exhibitions was revoked in September but that basically meant the Club could not continue. The Hogarth Club was eventually dissolved in December of that same year. In a letter from Brown to Stephens, Brown explained: “The HC is indeed defunct. Alas I think it a great pity and had there been the requisite amount of common sense among the members no doubt it would still be flourishing. But such a set of fellows! Such a set of fellows! All far too artistic to have any foresight” (Newman and Watkinson, 131). In the words of its Honourary Secretary, Frederic George Stephens, the Hogarth Club could not survive “the fickle tempers of the artistic members” (Rossetti, Ruskin, Rossetti, Preraphaelitism Papers, 290). Despite the short-lived nature of the Hogarth Club it was a significant enterprise in the history of Victorian art. As Deborah Cherry concluded in her seminal article it ”provided an arena for innovation, exchange, continuity and debate; its exhibitions reveal both the diversity and the common preoccupations of Pre-Raphaelitism during the critical years between 1858 to 1861” (243).


Barrington, Mrs. Russell. The Life, Letters and Work of Frederic Leighton. London: George Allen, Ruskin House, 1906.

The Building News. 4 (1858): 1122.

Cherry, Deborah. “The Hogarth Club 1858-1861.” The Burlington Magazine 122 (April 1980): 236-244.

Crook, J. Mordaunt. William Burges and the High Victorian Dream. London: John Murray, 1981.

Hunt, William Holman. Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 2 vols. London: Macmillan, 1905.

Newman, Teresa, and Ray Watkinson. Ford Madox Brown and the Pre-Raphaelite Circle. London: Chatto & Windus, 1991,113-116.

Rossetti, Dante Gabriel. The Correspondence of Rossetti. The Formative Years 1855-1862. Ed. William E. Fredeman. Volume 2. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2002.

Rossetti, William Michael. Ruskin, Rossetti, Preraphaelitism Papers 1854 to 1862. London: George Allen, 1899, 216-217, 284, and 289-290.

Rossetti, William Michael. The Selected Letters of William Michael Rossetti. Ed. Roger Peattie, Roger. University Park and London: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990

Last modified 26 October 2012