William Hogarth, Gin Lane

Gin Lane, 1 February 1751

William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)

RA Collection: Art

This print was published as a pair with Beer Street and contrasted the health and productivity benefits of drinking beer with the vice of gin drinking. At the time the prints were made gin was drunk in great quantities in England, and was extremely cheap (an inscription on the print reads 'Drunk for a Penny / Dead Drunk for two pence / Clean Straw for Nothing'). Hogarth's nightmarish scene is set in the slum known as the Ruins of St Giles and includes a drunken mother dropping her baby to take a pinch of snuff, the burial of a naked woman, mass brawling, and a man and dog fighting over a bone. Soon after the appearance of Hogarth's prints the Gin Act of 1751 reduced the number of gin shops and greatly increased the tax on importing gin amongst other measures to curtail consumption.

The verses beneath the images on both prints were written by Hogarth's friend, the Rev. James Townley, and the original copperplates are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

As for other prints which he saw as having a specific educational function (such as the set Industry and Idleness) Hogarth aimed the prints at the popular, rather than fine art market, stating in his prospectus for the prints that: 'As the Subjects of those Prints are calculated to reform some reigning Vices peculiar to the lower Class of People in hopes to render them of more extensive Use, the Author has published them in the cheapest Manner possible'. As a result the line in these prints is thicker and less sophisticated than in other prints engraved by Hogarth, both to enable the printing of more impressions without significant loss of quality, and to approach the characteristic style of popular prints.

Object details

Gin Lane
William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)
Published by
William Hogarth (1697 - 1764)
1 February 1751
Object type
Place of Publication
Etching and engraving

350 mm x 302 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
This image is from a book

Hogarth's prints. Vol. I. - [s.l.]: [n.d.]

Click here to view the book

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