Room 5: The Worship of Bacchus

George Cruikshank, ‘The Worship of Bacchus’ 1860–2
George Cruikshank
The Worship of Bacchus 1860–2
Tate
George cruikshank The Worship of Bacchus 1860 to 1862 detail of the painting

George Cruikshank
The Worship of Bacchus (detail) 1860–2

Tate

George Cruikshank The Worship of Bacchus 1860 to1862 detail of the painting

George Cruikshank
The Worship of Bacchus (detail) 1860–2

Tate

George Cruikshank The Worship of Bacchus 1860 to1862 detail of the painting

George Cruikshank
The Worship of Bacchus (detail) 1860–2

Tate

George Cruikshank The Worship of Bacchus 1860 to1862 detail of the painting

George Cruikshank
The Worship of Bacchus (detail) 1860–2

Tate

George Cruikshank The Worship of Bacchus 1860 to1862 detail of the painting

George Cruikshank
The Worship of Bacchus (detail) 1860–2

Tate

George Cruikshank The Worship of Bacchus 1860 to1862 detail of the painting

George Cruikshank
The Worship of Bacchus (detail) 1860–2

Tate

The huge painting dominating this room is by the Victorian artist George Cruikshank (1792–1878). It is a panoramic vision of British society being overtaken with the ‘worship of Bacchus’ – the god of wine. Cruikshank was a caricaturist and illustrator of comic scenes, but he had grand ambitions for this picture: he wanted to shock broken Britain into giving up the bottle and living a life of abstinence.

The painting was first exhibited in 1862, and toured around the country, but few people were interested. It was forgotten for many years, and obscured by layers of black soot and darkened varnish. Restoration of the painting was finally undertaken for the displays launching Tate Britain in 2001.

You can look at the painting in more detail using a key provided by political cartoonist Steve Bell.