Beer Street and Gin Lane - William Hogarth

Beer Street and Gin Lane are two prints that were intended to be shown alongside each other. They share similar motifs and characters but the condition is entirely opposite. Beer Street is represented as a cheerful, hardworking street in which everyone is happy and sociable. Gin Lane shows a stark contrast of chaos erupting in the street with the central focus being a women failing to notice the baby about to fall to its death.

Hogarth intended Gin Lane to be shocking and so it was intended that Beer Street was to be viewed first to offer a comparison. "Hogarth claimed that these prints were 'calculated to reform some reigning Vices peculiar to the lower Class of People'. They were published in support of a campaign directed against gin drinking among London's poor. Consumption of cheap spirits by the poor had soared in the early eighteenth century, with dire social consequences. The campaign was led by Hogarth's friend the novelist Henry Fielding (1707-54), who was chief magistrate for Westminster from 1749 to 1754. It was successful: an act against gin was passed later in 1751. This prevented retail sale of gin by the shops that sold normal household necessities, and was effective in curbing the evils of spirit drinking [ref]".

Beer Street celebrates beer as a light alcoholic drink. He shows the audience beer still leaves you capable of performing your daily activities as builders, tailors and people of various other occupations are presented holding a tankard of beer. In contrast Gin Street depicts everyone in it as either incapable, lacking in morals or physically drained. There is a continuing theme of poverty and death throughout. 

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