Oscar Gustave REJLANDER, The cup that cheers Enlarge 1 /1

Oscar Gustave REJLANDER

Sweden 1813 – England 1875

  • England from the 1840s

The cup that cheers c.1862 Materials & Technique: photographs, albumen prints, albumen print

Dimensions: image 20.3 h x 15.4 w cm support 29.2 h x 21.3 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1985
Accession No: NGA 85.224

One of the strengths of photography as a medium lies in its capacity to reflect social conditions and convey the spirit of a time. This image can be contrasted with 19th-century photographs of men in the exhibition shown with glasses of alcoholic beverages. Here the woman is instead seen with tea, a beverage advocated by the Temperance Movement, which had large followings in England through the formation of societies popular from the 1830s.

Tea was often referred to as 'the cup that cheers' and there was an agenda to reform the unruly behaviour of the working classes in the propaganda of the movement. The drinking of tea also turned people away from drinking cold water, the greatest enemy of pre-modern public health. Tea came to England from China in the 17th century. From the middle of the 18th century, it replaced ale and gin as the drink of the masses and became England's most popular beverage. Afternoon tea was established, reputedly by Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, in the early 19th century and soon became an entrenched part of English life.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra