Gin Lane – Hogarth

Information below is taken from

Gin Lane 1751 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Transferred from the reference collection 1973
Gin Lane 1751 William Hogarth 1697-1764 Transferred from the reference collection 1973

Etching and engraving 357×305 (14 1/4×12) on paper 621×470 (24 1/4×18 3/8); plate-mark 387×326 (15 3/8×12 3/8)
Writing-engraving ‘GIN LANE|Design’d by W. Hogarth|Publish’d according to Act of Parliam! Feb.1.1751.’ and a twelve-line verse caption
Transferred from the reference collection 1973

LITERATURE Oppé 1948, p.48; Paulson 1970, I, pp.209–11, II, pls.199, 200

Hogarth’s illustration of the evils of gin-drinking was published as a pair with ‘Beer Street’, as part of a campaign against the uncontrolled production and sale of cheap gin. It culminated in the Gin Act of 1751, through which the number of gin shops was greatly reduced. The original copperplates for both prints are now in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, and the drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library (Oppé 1948, pl.74). Another drawing for ‘Gin Lane’, dubiously attributed to Hogarth, is in the Huntington Art Gallery, Huth Collection. No.III is, according to Paulson, the fourth state of the engraving.


Gin Lane - Hogarth
Gin Lane – Hogarth

William Hogarth portrays the inhabitants of Beer Street as happy and healthy, nourished by the native English ale, and those who live in Gin Lane as destroyed by their addiction to the foreign spirit of gin; but, as with so many of Hogarth’s works, closer inspection uncovers other targets of his satire, and reveals that the poverty of Gin Lane and the prosperity of Beer Street are more intimately connected than they at first appear. Gin Lane shows shocking scenes of infanticide, starvation, madness, decay and suicide, while Beer Street depicts industry, health, bonhomie and thriving commerce.

This is a truly fantastic piece of etching. The detail is amazing. I like the use of satire in Hogarth’s work, as this type of satire works its way through to the modern day, something I can appreciate. Etching is a very time consuming process, however it is clear the results are amazing. This piece has great use of character, and storytelling through each character placed in the image.


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