England’s art has seen many different phases and trends through the centuries. These phases were determined by international invasions, religion, resources, and so on. As the conditions and context of England changed, so did the creativity it inspired.
When the Anglo-Saxons invaded England, they brought with them the cultures and traditions of the Germanic tribes from which they hailed. This type of art was characterised by intricate carvings in ivory and bone as well as impressive metalwork. This style became modern and sophisticated, only accessible to the wealthy.
Then, in 1066, the Norman invasion took place. This led to the destruction of the metalwork, as this material was melted and reused for other purposes. The paintings and sculptures were either destroyed or sent to Normandy for the enjoyment of its inhabitants. The art boom saw an overall halt for the next few decades. Gradually, Romanesque paintings emerged, which soon evolved into Gothic-style productions. These were of superior quality, coveted by collectors throughout Europe. It was also around this time that stained glass was introduced and used extensively in churches.
In the 1500’s and 1600’s, the Tudor period prevailed. This meant that most art was imported. However, there was a strong English influence in the field of portrait miniatures. Over the course of the next few years, portraits became a very important part of English art, right into the 18th century. Full sized portraits and landscape paintings were the order of the day by the close of the 1700’s. The baroque style that characterised these pieces was very influenced by the style and technique of Anthony Van Dyck. English nobles began a culture of collecting art at this time, earning it an acclaim it had not before enjoyed.
The 18th century also saw its art beginning to reflect middle-class living and attitudes. Weaknesses and vices were focussed on, approached with humour and satire.
The following century was characterised by the Norwich style, which was, in turn, influenced by the landscape paintings of Norfolk and Holland. This was a passing phase, quickly replaced by water-colour renditions.
This vintage engraving depicts an a political cartoon on the state of the arts in England in the mid 1700s. It is the creation of William Hogarth (1697 -1764), the brilliant English cartoonist. Here an oblivious monkey makes a futile effort to water decaying stumps, marked Obit 1502, 1600 and 1604. A quote accompanied the piece in Latin that read "How shall I explain this - that fame is denied to the living?" Hogarth's point was that while the King patriotically supports a young and vibrant art scene in 18th century England, connoisseurs persist in the futile promotion of dead foreign artists. Engraved by T. Cook & Son after Hogarth's painting. It was published in an 1810 collection of Hogarth's work and is now in the public domain. Digital restoration by Steven Wynn Photographer
J.M.W. Turner was born in 1775 and died in 1851. This English artist was known for his romantic landscapes, which he painted in watercolours and oils. He was considered to be controversial in his time, but is now recognised for his outstanding talents. He was dubbed "the painter of light".
John Constable specialised in romantic paintings. He was born in Suffolk in 1776 and died in 1837. He loved to paint landscapes, especially the areas around where he lived. His best known paintings include Dedham Vale and The Hay Wain. During his life, he was never that popular in England. In fact, he sold more paintings in France than he did in his homeland. xWilliam Hogarth was born in 1697 and died 66 years later in 1764. Hogarth was a painter and engraver. He was also known for his use of satire and irony, which was a very modern approach to art at that time. He has become known as the pioneer of sequential art that follows a storyline (such as that which appears in cartoon strips).