painter and sketcher, was born in London on 28 October 1744, only child of Charles Hodges, a smith, and Ann, née Richards. He had drawing lessons two days a week at William Shipley’s school, then in 1758 was articled for seven years to one of London’s leading landscape painters, Richard Wilson. While apprenticed to Wilson, Hodges won second prize for a chalk drawing shown with the Society of Artists in 1762, third prize in 1763, and first prize in 1764. He left London in 1765 to work in the country, including working as a scene-painter at Derby, returning to the capital in 1771. During this period his work was strongly influenced by that of his former master; Waterhouse calls Hodges 'probably the most accomplished painter of fake Wilsons’.
In 1772 Hodges was appointed to James Cook’s second expedition in the Resolution . It had originally been intended that Joseph Banks and his entourage, including the artists Johann Zoffany, James Miller, John Frederick Miller and John Cleveley, should accompany Cook on this voyage but when Banks abandoned this plan Hodges was appointed landscape painter by the Admiralty Board instead, on or before 27 June. The orders sent to Cook on 30 June read: 'Whereas we have engaged Mr William Hodges, a Landskip Painter … in order to make Drawings and Paintings of such places in the Countries you may touch at in the Course of the said Voyage as may be proper to give a more perfect idea thereof than can be formed from written descriptions only; You are hereby required and directed to receive the said Mr William Hodges on board … taking care that he does diligently employ himself in making Drawings or Paintings of such Places as you may touch at that may be worthy of notice in the course of your voyage and also of such other Objects and things as may fall within the Compass of his Abilities’.
The Resolution left Plymouth on 13 July 1772. Hodges’s work during the voyage shows the influence of Joshua Reynolds, whose Fourth Discourse (Joppien and Smith suggest) Hodges would have heard in London in 1771 or read in the Gentleman’s Magazine in 1772. Smith notes that because of this, Hodges’s Resolution paintings succeed admirably as generalised landscapes in the Grand Manner but fall down somewhat as accurate topographical records. (He did, however, produce exact coastal profiles when required to do so by Cook, as well as individualised portrait sketches of the native people of the Pacific Islands.) His views of New Zealand scenery and Antarctic icebergs, in particular, seem to have anticipated the nineteenth-century romantic interest in the sublime.
This voyage did not include continental Australia or Van Diemen’s Land. On 10 October 1774, however, Cook and a landing party explored an uninhabited island which he named Norfolk Island. Presumably Hodges made sketches at this time, but none are known. The Resolution returned to Plymouth on 29 July 1775. Hodges was retained by the Admiralty 'to finish the drawings and paintings he has made during the Voyage’; with reworking they became more and more classical. His sketches, watercolours and oil paintings of the voyage, some of exquisite beauty, are held in various collections in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
Hodges exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1776 and 1777, then annually from 1785 to 1794. He spent the years 1780-83 in India, publishing his Travels in India in 1793. He married three times and had six surviving children. He died on 6 March 1797, his third wife Ann Mary, née Carr, dying three months later.