“Gin Lane”

“Gin Lane” is a painting by William Hogarth made in 1751. It shows us the huge problem gin had become in London in the 18th century. The painting depicts a scene from a street in London at the time of the Gin Act. Gin where causing huge social problems in the streets and the government had to act. Rates of violent crimes, theft and prostitution rocketed amongst the poorest in the society.


The picture has several points of interest. You can see, in the centre front, a drunken mother neglecting her child. The child is falling from her lap and probably into its early death while the mother is taking a pinch of snuff. Death, illnesses and unmoral behaviour is described as a part of the imagery. You can, in the centre background, see a corps being placed in a coffin, this shows us how gin is effecting the death rated among the Londoners at the time.

The enlightenment was all about spreading knowledge and throwing light into the darkness[1]. Hogarth was known for making paintings in a style called the modern moral subject which satires the morals and manners of the contemporary[2]. This is very typical for the period. Artists did for the first time criticize parts of the society and aspects of the social life. They wished to do more than just inform, they wanted change. A typical aspect from the period is the way the painting wants to create debate and eventually change fundamental issues in the society.

However, most painters form this period belonged to the rococo style which is a strong contrast to the style used in “Gin Lane”. Rococo is often constructed with light colours and it describes the happy lives of the high society. This contrast could be an indication of the fundamental differences between the nobility and the “peasants”.



[1] john antony, m. (2008). access to english: litterature. Oslo: Cappelen Damm As.

[2] Tate modern. (u.d.). MODERN MORAL SUBJECT. Hentet fra tate.org.uk: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/m/modern-moral-subject


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