Hogarth dismissed portrait painting as "phizmongering" - peddling faces. Nevertheless he painted one of the finest portraits in English art, Captain Coram. A sea captain and shipbuilder, Coram made a fortune, but he did not squander it. Instead, he established London's first Foundling Hospital as a haven for the hundreds of babies regularly abandoned on the city's streets. Hogarth, who had no children of his own, supported the Foundling Hospital with his usual gusto. He also used its walls as a showcase of his own works and those of other English painters. Indirectly, the exhibitions in time led to the creation of London's Royal Academy.
Much as Hogarth railed against the classicised settings that had been used by Continental portraitists like Van Dyck, he himself placed the philanthropic Captain Coram before a huge marble pillar, with a conventional background of draperies. The remainder of the portrait, however is all Hogarth; the captain sits in his English scarlet coat, his ships in the distance, the globe at his feet. His solid features, firm mouth, broad brow and compassionate eyes reveal the purposeful, high-minded man whom Hogarth and his contemporaries held in such esteem.
Hogarth remained immensely proud of this portrait and states in his autobiographical notes : "Is it not strange that one of the first portraits, as big as the life of Captain Coram in the Foundling Hospital should stand the test of twenty years as the best portrait in the place notwithstanding all the first portrait painters in the kingdom had exerted their talents to vie with it."