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Gustave Doré’s East End

December 9, 2014
by the gentle author

I have been thinking about Gustave Doré lately, as the freezing miasma of winter descends upon the city and I struggle to negotiate the excited crowds thronging in the busy streets. Gazing upon the teeming masses in the flickering half-light outside Liverpool St Station, I see his world where deep shadows recede into infinite gloom and I succumb to its terrible beauty.

Doré signed a contract to spend three months in London each year for five years and the completed book of one hundred and eighty engravings with text by Blanchard Jerrold was published in 1872, entitled London – A Pilgrimage. Although he illustrated life in the West End and as well as in the East End, it is Doré’s images of the East End that have always drawn the most attention with their overwhelming sense of diabolic horror and epic drama, in which his figures drift like spectres coalesced from the ether.

In Bishopsgate

In Wentworth St, Spitalfields

Riverside St

In Bluegate Fields

A City Thoroughfare

Inside the Docks

In Houndsditch

Turn Him Out, Ratcliff

Warehousing in the City

Billingsgate Early Morning

Off Billingsgate

Refuge – Applying For Admittance

Brewer’s Men

Hay Boats On The Thames

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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9 Responses leave one →
  1. December 9, 2014

    They are just astonishing and so evocative. And so insightful.
    I’ll never look at a warehouse building again without populating with men and barrels and ropes and packages.
    Hay boats on the Thames!
    And the awful, awful poverty.
    And that city thoroughfare! With dogs and people sitting on top of the carts and carriages.


    And how interesting that the publisher engaged Dore in that way. Presumably very innovative. Publishers could just as easily commission in the same way now.
    Or more likely, artists do it off their own bat.
    How interesting.
    As ever, thanks 🙂

  2. December 9, 2014

    Fantastic engravings from Doré, thanks for sharing, love his work. Valerie

  3. Rosemary Hoffman permalink
    December 9, 2014

    very evocative- makes you think -even i cant recall some of the streets names in the pictures

  4. James Harris permalink
    December 9, 2014

    Please don’t ever stop. Even in this ridiculously busy modern life we make for our selves everyone should take a little time out, put the kettle on and enjoy your daily blog. These particular pictures tell countless stories.

  5. December 9, 2014

    How spectacular these impressions are from nearly 150 years ago… Never saw them before!

    Love & Peace

  6. Roger C permalink
    December 9, 2014

    Fantastic engravings, almost as good and evocative as 19thc photos.

  7. marianne isaacs permalink
    December 9, 2014

    I have been familiar with these for some time . I was boggled to see ,when looking at the one of Houndsditch that up at the top of the negraving is a sign “Harrow Alley” . A great grandfather was born there in 1872 so I guess this would have been his back yard . No wonder he took off for Australia as soon as he could ,all by himself at the age of 18. The funny thing is that his great great grandsons are living not far away as they have their 2 years working experience in London and are loving it !!

  8. Caroline permalink
    December 10, 2014

    Brilliant! Thanks again for showing me something new. GGG grandparents were rope makers living in Blue Gate Fields. Such a pretty name, as no doubt the area was when it was rural, but oh, my word, the squalor in this image.
    More please!

  9. December 28, 2014

    hello, great post
    the first image shows Pindars House Bishopgate, recently conserved (2009) where a lot of later restorations were removed, as part of the new Medieval & Renaissance galleries at the V&A

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