O.Wilde, Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. (...)
Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope.
They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty.
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all. (...)

No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything. (...)
All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.
Those who read the symbol do so at their peril.
It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.
Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital.
When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself...

O. Wilde (1854-1900),
Preface to 'The Picture of Dorian Gray'

Saturday, December 11, 2010

W. Hogarth, Beer Street and Gin Lane

Beer Street  &   Gin Lane

William Hogarth  (1697-1764)
painter, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, cartoonist

'Beer Street and Gin Lane' are two prints issued by William Hogarth in 1751
in support of the 'Act Gin' (=  it was an Act of the British Parliament which
                                             was  enacted  to reduce the  consumption  of
                                             spirits, a very popular pastime that was regarded
                                            as one of the primary causes of crime in London).
Designed to be viewed alongside to each other, they depict the evils of the consumption of gin as a contrast to the merits of drinking beer.
On the simplest level, Hogarth the inhabitants of Beer Street as happy and healthy, nourished by the native English ale, and those who lived in Gin Lane as destroyed by their addiction to the foreign spirit of gin.
But, on a deepest level, these two prints uncover Hogarth's satire, and reveals that the poverty of Gin Lane and the prosperity of Beer Street are more intimately connected than they at first appear.
Gin Lane shows shocking scenes of infanticide, starvation, madness, decay and suicide, while Beer Street depicts industry, health, bonhomie and thriving commerce.
In any case, in the prints there are contrasts and subtle details that allude to the prosperity of Beer Street as the cause of the misery found in Gin Lane.

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