A Thirst for Art: Gin Lane

In this new Telegraph video series, ‘A Thirst for Art’, author, broadcaster and critic Alastair Sooke examines eight works that each take drinking as their principal subject or theme.

This week, Alastair visits the Tate Britain to examine what he describes as “the most notorious image of drinking in British art” – William Hogarth’s Gin Lane.

The piece was created as a piece of impassioned political propaganda in support of the Gin Act of 1751, which aimed to reduce the consumption of gin amongst the poorer classes of Londoners.

Alastair Sooke (inset) discusses the "squalid and worrying" scenes depicted in Hogarth's Gin Lane Credit: Telegraph

“Initially you might think that this feels like a teeming scene, almost comic; but the closer you look, the more squalid and worrying it becomes,” says Alastair.

“This is a vision about drinking, about alcohol, about booze; but it’s probably the most sobering version of that subject ever created by an artist.”

Next week’s episode of ‘A Thirst for Art’ will discuss Manet's Corner of a Café-Concert.

Previous episodes have seen Alastair touch on the debauchery of an Ancient Greek symposium, the topsy-turvy majesty of Drunken Silenus supported by Satyrs and the rustic Dutch idyll of Jan Steen’s Skittle Players outside an Inn.