- Art of the United Kingdom
British art is the art of the island of
Great Britain. The term normally includes British artists as well as expatriates settled in Britain and British citizens working abroad.
Stonehengec. 2600 BC predates and predicts large Moderniststone sculpture and earthworksby thousands of years most experts are still mixed as to how to characterize the mysterious monuments as works of art or as religious objects or as sacred stone monuments still concealing a more esoteric meaning. They have inspired and fascinated artists of Great Britainand worldwide for centuries.
The oldest art in the United Kingdom can be dated to the
Neolithicperiod, and is found in a funerary context. But it is in the Bronze agethat the first innovative artworks are found. The Beaker people, who arrived in Britain around 2500 BC, were skilled in metal refining. At first, they worked mainly in copper, but around 2150 BC they learned how to make bronze. As there was a ready supply of tinin Cornwalland Devon, they were able to take advantage of this new process. They were also skilled in the use of gold, and especially the Wessex cultureexcelled in the making of gold ornaments. Works of art placed in graves or sacrificial pits have survived, showing both innovation and high skill. Anglo-Saxon sculpting was outstanding for its time in the 11th century, as proved by pre-Norman Ivory carving. [http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/normans/ivory_01.shtml]
Iron Age, the Celtic culture spread in the British isles, and with them a new art style. Metalwork, especially gold ornaments, was still important, but stone and most likely wood was also used. This style continued into the Roman period, and would find a renaissance in the Medieval period. It also survived in the Celtic areas not occupied by the Romans, largely corresponding to the present-day Walesand Scotland.
The Romans, arriving in the 1st century BC, brought with them the Classical style. Many monuments have survived, especially funerary monuments, statues and busts. They also brought glasswork and
mosaics. In the 4th century, a new element was introduced as the first Christian artwas made in Britain. Several mosaics with Christian symbols and pictures have been preserved. The style of Romano-British art follows that of the continent, there are some local specialities, to some extent influenced by Celtic art.
Early Middle Ages
Roman rule was replaced by a number of
Anglo-Saxonand Briton kingdoms with different cultural backgrounds. The Anglo-Saxons brought Germanic traditions, seen in the spectacular metalwork of Sutton Hoo. The fusion of these with the book in Insular artwas to influence the rest of medieval art across Europe. The carved stone high crosses were a distinctive Insular form, though related to the Pictish stones of Scotland. Anglo-Saxon artdeveloped a very sophisticated variety of contemporary Continental styles, seen especially in metalwork and illuminated manuscripts such as the Benedictional of St. Æthelwold. After the end of the Insular period, Scottish arttook a distinct path until the after the union of 1708.
Anglo-Saxon architecture, of which very little remains, was smaller scale than the large Romanesque catherdrals built after the Norman Conquest. After a pause of some decades, manuscript painting in England soon became again the equal of any in Europe, in Romanesque works like the Winchester Bibleand the St Albans Psalter, and then early Gothic ones like the Tickhill Psalter. In the final phase of the Gothic period however, English illumination falls away surprisingly, and elite patrons of the 15th century commission works from Paris or Flanders instead.
Very few examples of top-quality English painting on walls or panel have survived from before 1500, and probably there were relatively few. Some fragments have survived from paintings in
Westminster Abbey, which also has a large portrait of Richard II An outstanding example of this period is " The Wilton Diptych", also inclding a portrait of Richard, although this may be by a French artist. Of all the English kings, he was the most active as a patron of the arts before his depostion.
Renaissance and Reformation
A notable event in British art history is the
English Reformationinitiated by Henry VIII of Englandin 1536 and the subsequent seizure of property in the Dissolution of the Monasteries; Scotland soon followed. This, with the iconoclasmoften accompanying it, resulted in the destruction of much of the art in Englandand Wales' art tradition, which had previously been under the patronage of the church. Another result was isolation from the trends of Catholic Europe, including many of those at the centre of the Renaissance. While there was a political motive for the seizing and destruction of church property, there was also the religious motive of iconoclasm, which continued in fits and burst until the late 17th century.
English Renaissance, starting in the early 16th century, was late, and relatively little concerned with the visual arts, except for Tudor and Elizabethan architecture; it had a far greater impact in music and literature. Artists of the Tudor Court, mostly from the continent continued to find work in Britain, mainly on portraits, and brought the new styles with them, especially the Flemish and Italian Renaissance styles. Religious art had virtually ceased, and portraiture of the elite had begun to spread to the richer middle classes, at least in the distinctively English form of the portrait miniature. Nicholas Hilliardcharged only £3 for a miniature, certainly affordable by many merchants.
Baroque and 18th century Britain
King Charles I was an ambitious patron and amassed one of the best art collections in Europe, but he still had to rely on imported artists, in particular
Rubensand Van Dyck, the latter of whom set the style of relaxed elegance that English portrit-painters continued to aspire to for centuries. But neither left English pupils. In the second half of the century, landscapists imported from the Low Countriesintroduced this genre to England, though local artists were slow to follow them. From the 18th century, the English school of paintingis mainly notable for portraits and landscapes, and indeed portraits in landscapes. Among the artists of this period are Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792), George Stubbs1724–1806), and Thomas Gainsborough(1727–1788). William Hogarthpainted far more down to earth portraits and satires, and was the first great English printmaker.
Late 18th century to early 19th century
The late 18th century and the early 19th century was perhaps the most radical period in British art, producing
William Blake(1757–1827), John Constable(1776–1837) and Joseph Turner (1775–1851), the later two being arguably the most internationally influential of all British artists. Turner was noted for his wild, almost abstract, landscapes that explored the effects of light and was a profound influence on the later impressionists. Constable too, was a landscape painter who was also to have an influence on the impressionists, but is more accessible than Turner, and is noted rather for his imprecise brush strokes and elevation of 'mundane' subject matter then Turners almost visionary presaging of the future.
1840 to late 20th century
Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood(PRB) achieved considerable influence after its foundation in 1848 with paintings that concentrated on religious, literary, and genresubjects executed in a colorful and minutely detailed style. PRB artists included John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossettiand subsequently Edward Burne-Jones. Also associated was designer William Morris, who advocated a return to hand-craftsmanship in the decorative arts over industrial manufacture. His efforts to make beautiful objects affordable (or even free) for everyone led to his wallpaper and tile designs defining the Victorian aesthetic and instigating the Arts and Crafts movement. Alfred Sisleywas British, but painted in France as one of the Impressionists. Walter Sickertand the Camden Town Groupdeveloped an English style of Impressionismand Post-Impressionismwith a strong strand of social documentary. The key homegrown modern art movement at the beginning of the 20th century was Vorticism, whose members included Sir Jacob Epstein, Wyndham Lewis, and David Bomberg. The reaction to the horrors of the First World War prompted a return to pastoral subjects as represented by Paul Nash. Stanley Spencerpainted mystical works, as well as landscapes. Surrealismwas briefly popular in the 1930s, influencing Roland Penroseand Henry Moore.
Moore emerged after
World War IIas Britain's leading artist, promoted alongside Victor Pasmoreand Barbara Hepworthby the Festival of Britain. Abstract art became prominent during the 1950s with Ben Nicholson, Terry Frost, Peter Lanyonand Patrick Heron, who were part of the St Ives schoolin Cornwall. Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, John Tunnardand Francis Bacon ("The London School") were contemporary figurative artists. As a reaction to abstract expressionism, pop artemerged originally in England at the end of the 1950s with the exhibition " This Is Tomorrow". David Hockney, Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton were part of the sixties art scene.
Contemporary British art
Young British Artists(YBA) movement, which includes Damien Hirstand Tracey Emin, rose to prominence during the 1990s with the backing of Charles Saatchi and achieved international recognition with their version of conceptual art, which often featured installations, notably Hirst's vitrine containing a preserved shark. The Tategallery and its Turner Prize, as well as the Royal Academy, also gave exposure to them. In 1999, the Stuckists figurative painting group was founded in opposition to the YBAs. [ Cassidy, Sarah. [http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/this_britain/article1221073.ece "Stuckists, scourge of BritArt, put on their own exhibition"] , " The Independent", 23 August 2006. Retrieved 6 July 2008.] The Federation of British Artistshosts shows of traditional figurative painting. [ [http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk/nwh_gfx_en/ART50306.html "Major new £25,000 Threadneedle art prize announced to rival Turner Prize"] , 24 Hour Museum, 5 September 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2008.] Jack Vettrianoand Beryl Cookhave widespread popularity, but not official acceptance. [Smith, David. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2004/jan/11/arts.artsnews "He's our favourite artist. So why do the galleries hate him so much?"] , " The Observer", 11 January 2004. Retrieved 7 July 2008.] [Campbell, Duncan. [http://arts.guardian.co.uk/art/news/story/0,,2282549,00.html "Beryl Cook, artist who painted with a smile, dies"] , " The Guardian", 29 May 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7423702.stm "Painter Beryl Cook dies aged 81"] BBC, 28 May 2008. Retrieved 7 July 2008.] Banksymade a reputation with street graffitiand is now a highly-valued mainstream artist. [Reynolds, Nigel. [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2007/10/25/babanksy125.xml "Banksy's graffiti art sells for half a million"] , " The Daily Telegraph", 25 October 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2008.]
Notable arts institutions include the
Royal College of Art, Royal Society of Arts, Slade School of Art, Royal Academy, and the Tategallery.
English school of painting
London art scene
Museums in England
Museums in Northern Ireland
Museums in Scotland
Museums in Wales
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