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This is the most booze-soaked show you’ll see all year. In fact, given its subject matter, it would be fitting if ‘Art and Alcohol’, (Nov 16 2015 - Sep 30 2016) at Tate Britain was unfocused, less clever and good-looking than it thought it was, and concluded with episodes of crushing self-doubt. Instead it’s a concise display, clear-headed from start to finish, of rarely shown works from the collection. Most were created in the nineteenth century, when the hedonism of the Georgian and Regency eras gradually gave way to the self-denial of the uptight Victorian period, while a fashion for seventeenth-century Dutch paintings ensured that tavern scenes were all the rage in British art.
You’ll see fantastically detailed scenes of shitfaced Londoners, drinking to forget, to dull the pain, or just because they can. ‘If you were poor you would have drunk porter and ale,’ says curator David Blayney Brown. ‘If you were further up, you would be drinking wine and port. People used to get through the most phenomenal amounts of port. In fact if you were posh, you’d have alcohol with breakfast and basically never stop. People were completely pickled in it.’ Here, he chooses the key works on show.