William Hogarth

Research Point Project 3.1

The 1751 satirical engravings of Beer Street and Gin Lane were part of a campaign to curb gin drinking among the poor in London.

William Hogarth : Beer Street and Gin Lane 1751
William Hogarth : Beer Street and Gin Lane 1751
Research Point Questions

How has Hogarth has used denotation and connotation? What has he shown literally through denotation to support his anti-gin/pro-beer argument and what is implied through connotation? Think about the visual language and symbolic structure he has used to construct meaning – for example, the use of buildings in good repair or disuse, what’s in the foreground and what’s in the distance. What about the pawnbroker’s symbol and the symbolism in the physical language of the human body – the gestures, poses, sizes? There’s even a dead body in there somewhere. How does Hogarth use these to construct meaning?

In the anti-gin image the eye is drawn particularly to the drunkennes of the woman in the centre and her falling baby – one assumes this is more shocking than the wasted thin man in the bottom right (who probably also has a neglected baby at home). The line of the woman’s body leads the eye to the brawling and coffin in the background. In the middle ground are three figures one of whom is eating bones – this is emphasised through contrasting the white figure against his black hat. The pawnbroker’s shop seems to be doing a brisk trade.

In contrast most of the figures in the beer image are jolly portly men. The woman has a fish trade and is only stopping off temporarily – it seems she is even reading – with her husband? The pawnbroker’s sign is broken and the door shut. The background is festive and orderly.

Further research on Hogarth