Simplification: Hogarth’s Gin Lane

I’ve had this recording for a while now and I think it’s about time to get it posted. Back before Christmas The One Show had a feature on Gin, and in it was an explanation of ‘Gin Lane’, an engraving by William Hogarth, 1751. I’m not going into too much detail on why it was an important image for the time but Wikipedia has more info on the subject.

Gin Lane took one of the most talked about subjects of the time, and boiled it all down to one image which told all of the story. In the image there are three significant buildings; a distiller, a pawnbroker, and an undertakers, which representated the path the Gin drinkers were on.

Gin Lane S

Quick image analysis

Most striking is the image of the woman on the steps, intoxicated and unable to take care of her child. To the right of this woman is a man who looks ill and hungry, yet he’s clutching a bottle of Gin. Up from the man looks to be a woman who is giving her baby Gin. Just up from that, the crowd are having to be beaten back from the distillers by a man with a broom. Above the distillers shows a cut away of a building where we can see a man has hanged himself, and further down the street a building which looks about ready to collapse. We can only assume that the Gin addiction these people are going through has relieved them of all sense and responsibilities. In the background people are being measured up for coffins in the street, presumably because the undertakers are too full to measure up inside, and in the left hand foreground, people selling their posessions in order to buy more Gin.


This image is pretty much doing back then what newspaper cartoonists are trying to do today, only with todays cartoonists they usually have a very small space to fill and can get nowhere near as much detail as Hogarth did. Something I’m going to look into after I get the One Week of The Guardian out of the way is to look more into simplifying complex subjects with images.

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