Few people know that the English painter and satirist William Hogarth was so inspired by Coram that he devoted more than 25 years of his life to supporting us.
A self-made man, Hogarth was passionate about his friend Thomas Coram’s vision to improve the lives of abandoned children who lay dying on London’s streets and became involved first-hand in our work.
He made it his mission to use his artistic talents and influence to further advance our charitable cause.
When the first 60 children entered the Foundling Hospital in 1740, Hogarth donated £120 of his own money and a magnificent painting of Captain Coram. Full length portraits were normally reserved for the nobility, so by devoting one to Thomas Coram, a sea captain from the merchant class, Hogarth was truly paying tribute to his friend and his vision of a better world for children.
The portrait that I painted with most pleasure and in which I particularly wished to excel was that of Captain Coram - William Hogarth
Hogarth's commitment to children
Hogarth donated many more art works to the Hospital and encouraged the leading artists of the day, such as Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Joshua Reynolds, to do the same. So began the Foundling Hospital Art Collection, England’s first public gallery which attracted a daily crowd of spectators and raised valuable funds for the children.
Many of the works were displayed in the Hospital dining room, so that the children could benefit from them. This legacy of art and care continues today in our art therapy work.
Hogarth served on the Hospital’s Court of Governors and General Committee, and designed its coat of arms and uniforms for the children to wear.
His commitment to children extended into his home life, too. With his wife, Jane, he invited children to visit his house, and supervised local wet-nurses (the closest thing to foster carers in those days), an idea ahead of its time.
Also on display is the beautiful Court Room that Hogarth created for the Hospital, one of several rooms from the original Hospital that Coram and the Foundling Museum have preserved for future generations.
You can view the Hospital’s Art Collection today at the Foundling Museum, including Hogarth’s masterpiece The March of the Guards to Finchley, which Hogarth gave to the Foundling Hospital via a lottery.
For more on the collection, visit the website of the Foundling Museum.
Source: Pugh, Gillian, London’s Forgotten Children: Thomas Coram and the Foundling Hospital (Stroud: Tempus, 2007)