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Gustave Doré’s East End

August 11, 2021
by the gentle author

Gustave 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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11 Responses leave one →
  1. August 11, 2021

    Fantastic pictures of old London
    An area where my ancestors worked all their lives

  2. David permalink
    August 11, 2021

    Incredible control of light in those engravings

  3. Alex Knisely permalink
    August 11, 2021

    Piranesi’s CARCERI. Surprised at myself for not making the connection before. Thank you for presenting the images.

  4. Jennifer Blain permalink
    August 11, 2021

    I loved the contrast between Gustave Doré’s artistically piled up masses of humanity in today’s post and your choice for You may Also Like, ‘A room to let in old Aldgate’ – ethereal, unpopulated photographs of decaying buildings.

    So many ways to see London. How can it ever become boring?

  5. Steve Hanscomb permalink
    August 11, 2021

    Fantastic work. I’m torn between wishing I could walk into these images and being glad I’m not!
    The first one, in Bishopsgate shows Paul Pindar’s house, which was demolished to make way for Liverpool St. Station. The facade is in the V&A museum now. It was inspiration for Jim Kay’s interpretation of one of the shops on Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter illustrated books.

  6. David Walsh permalink
    August 11, 2021

    I’d be fascinated to know exactly where Dore’s best known work – that of the curved row of terrace rookery housing below two towering railway viaducts – was sited. Can you help ?

  7. Richard Smith permalink
    August 11, 2021

    Just hugely impressed with the amount of detail in Dore’s engravings. He also captures so well the suffering and misery of some of the people he portrays. What a skilled engraver and artist he must have been.

  8. August 11, 2021

    Astounding! I was especially moved by “A City Thoroughfare”. Notice the man at the very center of the throng. The artist INSISTS that we regard this man, and we are riveted. This image is so vivid, I almost feel that I can hear the roar of this churning, broiling crowd.

    Thank you, GA. A glorious way to begin the day, as ever.

  9. Charr Skirvin permalink
    August 11, 2021

    I’m currently reading Peter Ackroyd’s “Dickens” (over 1 000 pages of which I’ve read about half.) These images go perfectly with this book, illustrating the horrific conditions of the poor in London during Dickens’ lifetime. Dickens was a keen observer of these conditions.

  10. Bill permalink
    August 11, 2021

    Wow. Doré did love to portray the infernal. His take on life, I guess. The subjects in picture number two certainly resented his observation; he certainly didn’t mind recording their repugnance. How different from the visages in Brewer’s Men, fellows well-enough situated in life in a secure industry.

    Dear god, how fascinating. Hay Boats On The Thames is amazing. They all are. Dore could portray both heaven and hell. Too bad he never illustrated Blake.

    Not that Blake needs Doré; however, wouldn’t such productions be… fascinating.

  11. August 17, 2021

    Gritty images brought alive so long after London looked like this. The song of 1899 wonderfully represented for me in Gus Elen’s ‘If it wasn’t for the houses in between’. Well worth looking for to listen on YouTube if you don’t already know it.

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