(b London, 28 Oct. 1744; d Brixham, Devon, 6 Mar. 1797). English painter, mainly of landscapes. He was the pupil and assistant of Richard Wilson, 1758–65, and became a skilful imitator of his style. His work took on a more personal character when he travelled as draughtsman on Captain James Cook's second voyage to the South Pacific in 1772–5, and his finest paintings are those based on drawings he made of such exotic places as Tahiti and Easter Island (examples are in the National Maritime Museum, London). In 1779–84 he worked in India (where he earned a good deal of money) and he later visited the Continent, going as far as Russia in 1792. He did pictures for Boydell's Shakespeare Gallery and also tried to elevate his landscapes by combining them with moralistic subject matter. In particular, he painted two vast canvases called The Effects of Peace and The Consequences of War (both lost) and exhibited them privately in London in winter 1794–5. The exhibition was closed because Britain was at war with France at this time and the pictures were considered potentially subversive, showing ‘sentiments not suited to the public tranquillity’. This censure caused Hodges to abandon painting, and in July 1795 he moved to Devon, where he became a partner in a bank in Dartmouth. During a national financial crisis the bank collapsed and Hodges died the following day, officially of ‘gout of the stomach’, although there were rumours he had committed suicide with laudanum.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)
"Hodges, William" The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists. Ed Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press 2009 Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.