Gin Lane and Sequential Social Commentary

“We are deeply grateful that Dr. Chisman has chosen us to care for and share the collection...Many scholars will benefit from his kind generosity as well as his careful eye.” --Robert Huff, director Myers School of Art

BCAS Executive Dean Chand Midha discusses the art of Hogarth with donor James Chisman. Gin Lane, a page in a giant folio, is one of Hogarth's most famous works.

William Hogarth was an English painter, engraver, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, and editorial cartoonist. His work ranged from realistic portraiture to comic strip-like series of pictures on what he called "modern moral subjects."

The influence of his work is so pervasive that satirical political illustrations in this style are often referred to as "Hogarthian.” Some trace the contemporary graphic novel back to Hogarth’s prints.

William Hogarth, 1697- 1764, lived in an age when artwork was becoming increasingly commercialized. Art was being viewed in shop windows, taverns and public buildings and sold in print shops.

Old hierarchies were breaking down, and new forms where beginning to flourish: the ballad opera, the bourgeois tragedy and, especially, a new form of fiction called “the novel.”

It’s in that setting that William Hogarth hit on a new idea: painting and engraving modern moral subjects in series that told stories – mainly those that warned against sin and political corruption.

He treated his subjects as dramatic but emblematic figures, as a novelist does. Satire and grim social commentary were his signatures. His prints were expensive, and remained so until early 19th-century reprints brought them to a wider audience.

In the Hogarth Room, housed in the school’s Folk Hall, Robert Huff, director of the school, chose to exhibit a series called Industry and Idleness. Hogarth shows the progression in the lives of two apprentices, one of whom is dedicated and the other lazy. The industrious apprentice succeeds and ends up as Mayor of London. His idle counterpart descends into crime, punishment and execution.

“We thought these would be good to exhibit in a room where we often tell students they need to work a little harder,” said Elisha Ann Dumser, assistant professor of art history, who helped put the exhibit together.

Also currently on exhibit is Hogarth’s “Gin Lane”, which depicts, in gruesome and tragic detail, the evil of gin, which was, at the time, being imported into London from Belgium. Hogarth fought for a Gin tax which would make the hard spirits out of the reach of the poor who were turning to escape albeit briefly their plights.

The print “Gin Lane” is usually paired with a sharply contrasting “Beer Street”, which shows happy people in good health enjoying their bubbling beverage made from the same ingredients as bread. At the time, beer was thought to be a health food.

Gin Lane, one of the most famous of Hogarth's prints, is now at UA.

“Beer Street is in the collection. We just didn’t think it would be the best message to give to undergraduates right now,” said Dumser, with a laugh.

“We are deeply grateful that Dr. Chisman has chosen us to care for and share the collection he has spent a lifetime pursuing and enjoying,” said Huff. “Many, many scholars will benefit from his kind generosity as well as his careful eye.”

Chisman said he knew the Hogarth collection would be appreciated at UA; that’s why he donated it to his undergraduate alma mater, although he hasn’t lived in Akron since graduation.

Dr. Chisman continued his education at the University of Iowa, where he received a master’s degree in Industrial Engineering in 1960 and a Ph.D. in Management Engineering in 1963.

After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Chisman joined the faculty of Clemson University.  At Clemson, he founded and coordinated the Systems Engineering Program and founded the Engineering Technology Program.  He became a Professor of Systems Engineering and developed the Study Abroad program for the College of Engineering. In 1987, he was named a Fulbright Fellow.

Dr. Chisman is published in numerous journals and has consulted for many companies, including Ryobi Motor Products, Owens-Corning Fiberglass, Apple Computer, Reliance Electric, IBM, and DuPont.

Dr. Chisman retired from Clemson in 1992, but continues to teach non-credit courses about his hobby: the art of William Hogarth.

Contact: Cyndee Snider, 330-972-5196 or or Mary Ethridge, 330-972-4821 or