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William Hoggatt: Capturing Light & Shadow

Castle Rushen from Bridge House by William Hoggatt, c.1950 (Ref. 1984-0182/14)

So you think you know Hoggatt…

  • a Manx artist
  • paints stuff
  • paints big oils
  • very traditional
  • Manx landscape artist
  • paints pretty pictures
  • paints timeless and picturesque landscapes
  • paints a lot of geese and goats
  • an old man
  • wore a mac and a fedora hat

Yes but did you know…

  • he was born and grew up in Lancaster
  • he studied as a young man in Paris
  • he first trained and worked as a stained glass designer
  • he eloped to the Isle of Man with his future wife, Dazine, in 1907
  • the Royal family were great fans of his work
  • he was a passionate environmentalist and campaigner for the preservation of the Manx countryside

Frosty Morning in a Manx Glen by William Hoggatt, 1920s-1930s (Ref. 1971-0315)

First Impressions of William Hoggatt

He hails from Lancaster, and in the old historic capital of Lancashire he took his first lessons in painting in the local Art School. Subsequently, he crossed the Channel, and in Paris, under Jean Paul Laurenz, he completed his studies.

Since that time he has, in colour, given expression to his impressions of various parts of England and Scotland, while his Port St. Mary studio is full of Manx Scenes.

I was not long in deciding ‘art for art’s sake’ was the motto of mine host… a glance round the room discovered he paints not to ‘please the million,’ but to satisfy himself.

His years are apparently few. His features are strong and intense, and his keen, observant eyes are expressive of deep enthusiasm. The artist is further betrayed in the long, tapering fingers, which I could not but notice as he handed me a cigarette were somewhat discoloured by over-indulgence in that form of the pernicious weed.

(Isle of Man Examiner, 19 October, 1907)

Tree and Landscape in Snow by William Hoggatt, early 20th century (Ref. 1984-0182/13)

Humble Beginnings

Hoggatt was born in 1879 in Lancaster, the eldest child and only son of James Hoggatt, a joiner. Sadly his mother died when he and his two sisters were children and his father remarried shortly afterwards.

As a young man, Hoggatt’s artistic abilities were soon recognised and encouraged. By the age of 21, he worked at one of the stained glass firms in Lancaster as a designer.

Hoggatt also studied art at the Storey Institute in Lancaster, where his talents led to him being offered sponsorship to go to Paris to continue his studies. A whole new chapter was about to begin for the young joiner’s son from Lancaster.

Bride Church by William Hoggatt, 1952 (Ref. 1957-0043)

A Young Artist in Paris

As a new century dawned and the decadent Fin de siècle world of Toulouse-Lautrec and Oscar Wilde came to a close, Paris in 1900 was at the centre of a fresh and exciting world. The 1900 Paris Exposition (World Fair) showed that anything was now possible in the 20th century.

In 1901 Hoggatt went to study at one of the most well-known and popular private art schools in Paris, the Académie Julian. He spent two years studying under the French artist, Jean-Paul Laurens. A record of his life in Paris can be seen in two very contrasting works – a self-portrait and a view of the Pont Neuf.

Laurens felt that Hoggatt’s artistic forte and strengths were in portraiture and that he should develop his talents in that direction, but Hoggatt felt differently – No, I have my living to earn and yet I want to paint what wants painting – he wanted to paint the world around him.

Young Man (possible self portrait) by William Hoggatt 1901-1903 (Ref. 1997-0030)

A new life on the Isle of Man

Hoggatt returned to Lancaster in 1903 and his artistic career began to take off as his work was shown at prestigious galleries around Britain.

Whilst working at the Tate in London, Hoggatt met someone who would change his life forever, Miss Daisy Archer, a young school teacher and farmer’s daughter, from Chalfont St Peter. Hoggatt’s life changed dramatically in 1907 when he moved to the Isle of Man and shortly afterwards married Daisy (Dazine) Archer at Rushen Church.

As an artist he found the Island’s abounding natural beauty a great irresistible challenge. So he did the only possible thing – he threw away the return half of his steamer ticket and set to work.
(Isle of Man Examiner, September 28, 1956)

The Hoggatts moved into Glendown House, near Port St Mary. The area around Glendown, including the wooded glen, soon became the setting for several of his rural scenes. The local newspapers quickly began to start reporting on Hoggatt’s artistic activities. He was teaching art classes, exhibiting at the Royal Academy Summer Show and at several of the art galleries in the north of England.

William Hoggatt and his wife, Dazine 1940s-1950s (Ref. PG/8332)

An Ambassador for the Isle of Man

By the 1920s, Hoggatt’s reputation had spread far beyond the shores of the Isle of Man.

The staging of his first one-man show in London entitled Tone Harmonies gathered glowing
reviews. This was quickly followed by him being elected to the Royal British Colonial Society and to his work being exhibited and collected internationally.  By 1924 he was commissioned by Cadbury’s to paint views of the new Bournville Garden City.

Hoggatt’s paintings ‘capture’ the essence of the Isle of Man’s stunning scenery. As a result his work was used to promote the Island in tourist posters and at the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in the Manx Kiosk.

In 1926, Hoggatt was invited to join the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, a select group of artists who were entitled to sign their work with the coveted initials R.I. The Institute is seen as being second only to the Royal Academy and the fact that William Hoggatt was never invited to become a Royal Academician was an oversight that the Manx newspapers frequently complained about.

In Hoggatt’s view:

The subjects for painting in the Isle of Man
are almost inexhaustible… It would take many
lifetimes to cover them all.
(Isle of Man Examiner, September 28, 1956)

William Hoggatt Painting Port Erin, mid 20th century (Ref. PG/7438/1)

Passion for the Manx Landscape

Hoggatt loved the Manx countryside. It was more than just a subject matter for his paintings. He felt strongly that it needed preserving and protecting against the ravages of the modern age.

By the late 1930s, Hoggatt was becoming extremely vocal about the loss and destruction of the Manx countryside and the speed at which it had disappeared during the 30 years that he had lived on the Island. As a result he became a great supporter and campaigner for the preservation of the Manx countryside.

MR WILLIAM HOGGATT PREFERS THE ISLAND OF 30 YEARS AGO – PAINTER’S PARADISE: Like myself, he said, they [visitors] don’t want to see an Island full of cement and iron railings – they see enough of that at home. The Island’s great charm is in its natural beauty – the wonderful variety of its scenery.

(Isle of Man Examiner, December 31, 1937)

In 1938, Hoggatt gave a lecture at the Manx Museum entitled The Manx Countryside in Danger? An Artist’s View – the lecture was packed to overflowing and as its title shows, the artist didn’t pull any punches:

MANX ARTIST DECLARES HIS FAITH: This ribbon development is deplorable and the country districts will soon be one long continuous string of houses, ill-sorted and with no relation to the surrounding landscape, either in design or colour…. We shall soon wonder where the country begins to be country…

(Isle of Man Times, November 12, 1938)

It may have taken time but Hoggatt’s ‘clarion call’ to action was answered by the formation of various societies and organisations including the Manx National Trust in 1952.

William Hoggatt c.1958 (Ref. PG/1736)

Creating a ‘shrine’ to the Island’s National Poet, T.E. Brown

1934 saw the opening of the new T.E.Brown Memorial Room at the Manx Museum. William Hoggatt’s T.E.Brown Memorial Window was unveiled as the centrepiece of the new room.

A prize of £20 was offered for the best design for the new memorial window and several artists took up the challenge, with 16 designs being submitted. Unsurprisingly, William Hoggatt’s design won – remember Hoggatt had initially trained as a stained glass designer. The new window was made by Shrigley & Hunt of Lancaster, who had also made many of Burne-Jones’ most important windows.

The T.E.Brown window is a relatively rare example of stained glass that depicts ordinary people, rather than the more typical Biblical figures found in churches. It was a modern and contemporary art installation by one of the Island’s leading artists. One question we might not think of is why would Hoggatt want to win this competition? As a successful artist, this could have very easily gone wrong for Hoggatt. It was a potentially tough commission for a variety of reasons, in particular because T.E.Brown’s poetry was so well-known and loved on the Island. People would have known Brown’s characters and would have had their own ideas of what they looked like and the window was to be a centrepiece in a ‘shrine’ for a Manx ‘national icon’. A lot of other well-known Manx artists had lost out to Hoggatt in the competition, so his winning design had to be more than just ‘good’, it had to be excellent.

What has been Hoggatt’s Hoggatt’s Legacy to Manx Art?

William Hoggatt was one of the most prolific and popular artists of the 20th century working on the Isle of Man. Over the years vast numbers of people will have seen his paintings in the National Art Gallery at the Manx Museum as well as on the walls of homes both on and off the Island.

Today, with John Miller Nicholson and Archibald Knox, he is considered one of the trio of ‘Great Manx Artists’. Generations of future Manx artists have been inspired by his work on childhood visits to the Manx Museum.

Hoggatt’s work may now be seen as ‘safe’, unadventurous and conservative in style. So it’s an opportune time to reassess Hoggatt’s work and view it with fresh eyes and discover the new and startling way that Hoggatt painted the Manx landscape.

Hoggatt’s greatest legacy was the great love of the Manx countryside that he had and that he desperately wanted to pass on to others.

As his contemporaries said of him:
Mr. Hoggatt is a wonderful ambassador of the Island’s natural beauties
(Isle of Man Examiner, November 20, 1958)

The Ancient Village of Cregneash by William Hoggatt, 1939 (Ref. 1954-5796)

An Artist in Wartime

So what exactly did William Hoggatt do during two World Wars?

Unfortunately we know very little about what Hoggatt did during the First World War. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he didn’t enlist or apparently engage in any war work, in contrast to Archibald Knox who worked as a parcel censor at Knockaloe Internment Camp or Charles Auty who was a member of the Loyal Manx Volunteer Corps. He was never called up to attend a Military Tribunal, so it’s likely that Hoggatt failed his medical. Hoggatt did keep painting during the War and in 1916 exhibited at both the Royal Academy Summer Show and at the Liverpool Academy of Arts exhibition in aid of funds for the Red Cross Society.

By the outbreak of the Second World War, Hoggatt was too old for military service and was also in failing health. By 1940, Hoggatt was on the verge of totally losing his sight due to nicotine poisoning and was unable to work for 6 months. Thankfully his health improved and he was able to paint as prolifically as before and exhibit several paintings at the Royal Academy Summer and Winter Shows and other exhibitions in Britain.

Hoggatt exhibited The Women’s Internment Camp from the artist’s garden at the Royal Academy Show in 1942. His wife, Dazine, contacted Sir Kenneth Clark at the National Gallery in London in the hope it would be exhibited in one of the ‘War Pictures’ exhibitions held in London. It was not chosen and sadly what might have been a highlight of Hoggatt’s career, recognition as a ‘war artist’, didn’t happen.

Hoggatt’s wartime work finally culminated in two of his paintings being commissioned by Douglas Corporation for presentation to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during the Royal Tynwald visit in July 1945.

William Hoggatt was now a Manx artist with ‘Royal approval’.

William Hoggatt and King George VI, 4 July 1945 (Ref. PG/7438/3)

An Artist’s Life Beyond the Studio and the Easel

Hoggatt was both a prolific and well-known artist, whose artwork could be seen in various galleries and exhibitions around the world. His work was frequently discussed in the Manx newspapers and further afield in the British press.

For many people he was a well-known character around the south of the Island, who might be seen out and about painting en plein air (outdoors) in all weathers and at various times of the day. For some, he was their art master at King William’s College in the 1920s and 1930s and for others he was the person who encouraged them in their artistic endeavours (although he could be brutally honest in his criticism of one’s work). Hoggatt was involved with various aspects of the Island’s artistic life over many years, including the Mannin Art Group founded in 1949. The Hoggatts also became well-known for their hospitality and as their friend, Mona Douglas, remembered from the 1930s:

I have many happy memories of sessions beside that wide old chiollagh, where a glorious fire blazed, discussing art and literature, music and life, with whatever company of friends turned up – for The Darragh gradually became the nearest thing the Island possessed to a Salon, and the Hoggatts’ Sunday Gatherings there were a real centre of intellectual life.

The most important person though in William Hoggatt’s life was the person most unlike him. Whilst Hoggatt could be described as a ‘brusque’ character who didn’t waste words and didn’t care what they said, his wife Dazine was the complete opposite. Dazine was a gentle and gentile soul, who was charming, talkative and kind – the Hoggatts were a devoted couple and Dazine was bereft following her husband’s death in 1961. But Dazine was also the person who ensured that William Hoggatt fulfilled his potential as an artist, she was his ‘manager’. It was Dazine who organised the framing of his paintings, who arranged for them to be shipped to various galleries and exhibitions and therefore it was Dazine who ensured the world got to see Hoggatt’s work.

William Hoggatt and his wife Dazine at home c.1940 (Ref. PG/8650)

William Hoggatt: Capturing Light and Shadow runs from 14 Sep 2019 – 26 Jan 2020 at the Manx Museum, 10am – 5pm. Free exhibition, donations welcome.