The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), the world’s longest established public health body, is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. To commemorate this milestone, RSPH commissioned artist Thomas Moore to reimagine William Hogarth’s infamous 1751 cartoon Gin Lane – which depicts the debilitating effects of the gin crisis then sweeping London – for the 21st century. The new artwork, which reflects some of the biggest public health challenges now facing British society, was unveiled on Wednesday 19 October 2016 at RSPH’s Annual General Meeting and can be seen at the RSPH’s historic home at 28 Portland Place, London.
Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “The original Gin Lane depicts concern with some of the leading challenges to the public’s health in the 18th century – not just alcoholism, but other leading killers of the time including infectious diseases and malnutrition. The leading threats to the public’s health have changed over time with infectious diseases now supplanted by the growth in non-communicable diseases such as those caused by obesity, as well as a growing awareness of the importance of mental wellbeing.
“On our 160th anniversary, Gin Lane 2016 gives us a valuable opportunity to reflect on the challenges to the public’s health that we now face and will inspire us to find new and innovative solutions to tackle these problems. We hope that when we look back on this piece of artwork in another 160 years, many of the health issues it depicts will be a thing of past.”
Artist Thomas Moore said: “When I contacted the RSPH for this commission, I told them that – as an avid Hogarth fan with an interest in public health – I was the man for the job. After being commissioned for the piece, I can honestly say that I’ve given it everything. Hogarth was the grandfather of the cartoon, so I treated this project with the respect it rightly deserved. Recreating Gin Lane over the past few months has completely consumed me. Hogarth – I hope you approve.”
The overall scene is the same street as in the original Gin Lane, but has been developed and modernised so that it is representative of a typical street scene in London, or indeed anywhere in the UK today.