Hodgson in c. 1889, photographed by Ralph Winwood Robinson, © National Portrait Gallery, London (click on the image for more information).

Hodgson was born on 1 March 1831 in Camberwell, Surrey, the elder son of John Hodgson. His family was one of the leading families in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. At the age of four in 1835 the family moved to St. Petersburg in Russia where his father established himself as a merchant. In 1843 John was sent to London to continue his education and in February 1846 he entered Rugby School.

After leaving school Hodgson returned to St. Petersburg to enter his father's business but found this job incompatible with his interests. Having been influenced by the Old Masters he saw in The Hermitage, and after reading John Ruskin's Modern Painters, he opted for a career as an artist, which had always been his preference. On April 27, 1855 he enrolled as a student in the Royal Academy Schools.

Hodgson first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1856. Initially his subjects were primarily domestic or contemporary subjects but in 1861 he undertook his first work of historical genre painting, A Visit to Holbein's Studio - Sir Thomas More and his daughters looking at his portrait. This was the type of subject favoured by the St. John's Wood Clique of which Hodgson was a member. He had moved to 5 Hill Road, Abbey Road, in the St. John's Wood area of London two years previously in 1859. In 1868 Hodgson made his first trip to North Africa, visiting Tunis in Tunisia and Tangier in Morocco, and began to paint the Orientalist subjects for which he is perhaps now best known.

On December 29, 1857 Hodgson married Helena Elizabeth Todd. The couple had five children, three girls and two boys. Hodgson was elected as an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1873 and a full member in 1879. In 1882 he was appointed librarian to the Royal Academy and later that same year as professor of painting. He retained these posts until his death in 1895. He helped to organize the yearly Royal Academy's winter exhibitions of Old Masters. Hodgson was both a good scholar and linguist. In 1884 he published Academy Lectures and in 1887 Fifty Years of British Art on the occasion of the Royal Jubilee Exhibition held in Manchester. Hodgson was also a contributor to many periodicals and journals, including The Art Journal and The Architect. He died on June 19, 1895 at The Larches, Coleshill, near Amersham in Buckinghamshire, where he had lived for about ten years. He was buried in the family plot in Highgate Cemetery.

In Hodgson's obituary a writer for The Athenaeum, in summing up Hodgson's artistic career, commented: "It may be added that Hodgson's pictures, though greatly admired by his brother artists, were to some extent unappreciated by the public. They never failed in originality and refinement, and often exhibited fine technical passages, as well as an excellent colouration, though, no doubt, they suffered at times from the fastidious elaboration which he loved to bestow upon them; his finest works were those that took the least time" (844).


"Mr. John Evan Hodgson R. A." The Athenaeum No. 3531 (29 June 1895): 844.

Taylor, Tom. "English Painters of the Present Day. XIX - J. E. Hodgson." The Portfolio II (1871): 17-19.

Created 14 January 2024