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William Hoggatt

Epithet: An 'almost-Manx' artist (1879-1961)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: From ‘New Manx Worthies’ (2006):

From the recollections of contemporaries, William Hoggatt emerges as a shy man, quiet and contemplative, uninterested in financial gain yet with a sharp and incisive mind. One of his pupils called him 'a true professional living by his brush alone, but one who always found time to help an enormous number of aspiring young artists in a very quiet, unobtrusive way'. He achieved international recognition as a landscape painter, with a prolific ouvre in oils, watercolours and pastels.

His subject matter was almost exclusively the Manx countryside. He is quoted as saying that 'you have to wear out a pair of shoes walking around your subject before you begin to paint' and it was his intense love for the Manx landscape which provided the inspiration for his life's work. His paintings now hang in galleries and private homes not only in the Isle of Man and the United Kingdom, but around the world.

William Hoggatt was not a Manxman, but after choosing to live on the Island for 55 years, joked that he deserved to be considered as one. 'Almost a Manxman' was how he described himself.

Born and brought up in Lancaster, he was apprenticed to a firm of stained-glass engravers as a sketch artist, but before he could complete his apprenticeship he was sent to study at the city's Storey Institute of Art. There he was taught by Charles Ripper, himself a landscape artist in oils and watercolours. William achieved a first class award in draughtsmanship on 20th April 1899. He quickly came to the notice of the son of the founder of the institute, Herbert Storey, who must have recognised a special talent in the young man, for in 1901 he sent William to study art in Paris.

Paris at this time was seen as the artistic centre of Europe. William was to study sculpture, portraiture and life drawing for three years, under the celebrated professor Jean-Paul Laurens, in the famous Academie Julien. Herbert Storey paid for his lodgings and tuition. William gained prizes and achieved an entry in the exhibition in the 1903 Paris Salon d'Automne. Storey would continue to be a staunch supporter and patron for the next 20 years.

However on William's return to Lancaster, the frenetic life of a crowded capital city seemed to have had an adverse effect. He turned his back on urban subject matter, returning to the countryside he understood, and began painting the rural scenes that were his stock-in-trade for the rest of his life.

In January 1907 he took a return ticket to the Isle of Man (he would later joke that the return half was never used) where he was immediately attracted by the quality of the light and the beauty of the landscape. He had fallen in love with a young woman, Dazine Archer from Chalfont St Giles in Buckinghamshire, whilst working for a short time at the Tate Gallery in London. In spite of parental opposition, Dazine travelled to the Island to join him. They were married on 20th April 1907 at Kirk Christ, Rushen, and lived at Glen Down House until 1926, then at Yn Darrag (The Oak), above Port Erin, for the rest of their lives.

By the mid-20s Hoggatt was established internationally, yet he always had time to encourage aspiring young artists. He was art master at King William's College (1915-37), president of the Manx Artists' Group, and a vice-president of the Mannin Art Group. Passionate about the preservation of the Island's beauty, he was a founder member and president of the Society for the Preservation of the Manx Countryside, and a member of the British Society of Trees and Life.

Dazine was a constant support. She was well-educated, from an artistic family, and it was she who would name his paintings. She had to be a keen businesswoman, as 'Billy' was utterly uninterested in making money.

Life was financially hard and they lived frugally, especially during World War II. Yet they had a large circle of friends and held 'open house' every Sunday afternoon. Hoggatt would often pay bills with his paintings. When times were especially hard he used the backs of pieces of linoleum or wallpaper, or wrapping paper, to paint on as there was no money to buy canvases. A former pupil recalled that:

"... his painting tools at that time consisted of a couple of sticks of charcoal, a bottle of milk with a cork in it, a brush and a piece of bread. He would carry a walking stick with a cup hook screwed into the top which he would stick into the ground, hanging his canvas on the hook, and sitting on a rubber blow-up cushion. He used house-painters' brushes and an old bone-handled table knife as a palette knife and just one artist's brush, as one couldn't get a variety of brushes during the war."

Hoggatt was considered a very good draughtsman and colourist. Another pupil described his 'quite masterly handling of his brushstrokes'. He was deft and quick, often making little impressionistic sketches on Christmas cards, or on receipts or at the top of letters to friends. He painted out of doors and then would finish the work in his studio. As he had no car, he relied on friends for lifts all over the Island.

Because of the shortage of petrol, he would paint an original on these infrequent outings, and then copy it again and again as required. He always fiercely resented being told what to paint. He maintained that artists should be allowed to go and do what they wanted, when and how they wanted. His great hobby was chess, which he played regularly to an excellent standard for the Island team, and also bridge during the winter months.

From 1905-59 his paintings were accepted for exhibition at the Royal Academy, his oil The Shepherdess being hung 'on the line' in 1923. He exhibited at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibitions from 1904-38, at the Derby Art Gallery from 1915-38, and at other venues all over England. In 1920 the first of his one-man shows, Tone Poems, was held at the Hampstead Art Gallery in London, and he was made a member of the Royal British Colonial Society of Artists (RBC). In 1925 he gained the diploma of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, with his painting entitled February. This was described as the outstanding picture in his 1926 exhibition at the Storey Institute. He was a member of the Academies of Liverpool, Manchester and the Royal Cambrian, and also exhibited with the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolours.

In 1924 he had been commissioned to exhibit at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, and was featured in The Studio and Connoisseur during that year and again in The Studio in 1944.

Throughout the 1920s and '30s Hoggatt's paintings of the Island went on exhibition all over the world, including Jamaica, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South America and India. Amongst purchasers were the galleries of Liverpool, Manchester, Oldham, the Lady Lever at Port Sunlight, Preston, Lancaster and the National Galleries of Australia in Adelaide and Melbourne. A letter dated 24th February 1927, written to the Manchester City Art Gallery regarding the purchase of his watercolour, The Avenue, Onchan, 1926, throws light on his techniques:

"... the subject was found on the wooded outskirts of North Douglas, Isle of Man. After making many charcoal studies, I painted it on the spot direct from nature. As regards technique, it is a straightforward statement in watercolour in the 'direct' method and whilst retaining my own personality, I feel I owe a great debt to John Sell Cotman's work of the middle period, whom I have seriously studied, and for whose work I have the greatest respect ..."

In 1934 he returned briefly to the medium of his youth - stained glass engraving - after winning a competition to design a stained glass window for the Manx Museum commemorating the Revd Thomas Edward Brown. In 1935 his design was accepted for a jubilee map of the Island to celebrate 25 years of King George V's reign. In 1945 the House of Keys commissioned him to paint an oil which was presented to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. In 1949 the Duke of Edinburgh bought one of his watercolours, Ballaugh Curraghs, from the Royal Institute in Piccadilly. In 1951 his Castle Rushen from Bridge House adorned the cover of the Manx Festival of Britain catalogue.

He lived on for a further ten years, painting without pause. Although he had been in failing health for some time, in early 1961 he seemed to be getting better. However, he was admitted to Noble's Hospital on a routine visit and died there quite unexpectedly on 4th June 1961. He was buried in Rushen Churchyard, where Dazine joined him seven years later.

William Hoggatt is remembered by those who knew him as a quiet, unassuming man with a good sense of humour who played his part in local affairs in the south of the Island, even judging the sandcastle competitions on the beach at Port Erin in the summer time! He is remembered by succeeding artists who admired him and followed his example as a continual source of inspiration for those who paint in watercolours. He will be remembered by posterity, not only as an artist of international repute and distinction but as a champion of the unique qualities of the life and landscape to be found in the Isle of Man.

The epitaph on his gravestone expresses eloquently the motivation behind his life's work in his adopted homeland: He loved the Island dearly and revealed to its people its wondrous beauty.

Biography written by Fenella Billington.

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.213-6.)

Culture Vannin


Occupation / profession: artist

Nationality: English

Gender: Male

Date of birth: 1 September 1879

Place of birth: Lancaster, England

Date of death: 4 June 1961

Place of death: Isle of Man

Name Variant: Hoggatt, W.


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I am researching my Grandfather who ran the Hampstead Art Gallery in Hampstead from 1919 till his death in 1939. He ran an exhibition of painting of Willam Hoggatt, in 1919 and I have a portrait he tool of William so he must have sat during one of his painting exhibitions! - Simon Elsy Report this