A Survey of British Painting 1850 -1914

This Study Day aims to give an account of the achievements and developments of painting in Britain from the Pre-Raphaelites to the First World War. It was a dynamic period with the Pre-Raphaelites, the square brush painters of Newlyn and Glasgow, the London Impressionists, the Camden Town School and Roger Fry’s explosive Post Impressionist exhibitions in London in 1910-12.

Lecture 1 The Pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetic Movement

The Pre-Raphaelites were a group of young and radical painters who were determined to break the stranglehold of academic art. They rejected the teachings of the Royal Academy and embraced new techniques such as painting in oils in the open air, 15 years before the Impressionists, and using the bright new chemical colours that were coming onto the market. The Aesthetic Movement was a reaction to Pre-Raphaelitism led by Whistler whose libel case against Ruskin in 1879 provides a climax and turning point.

Lecture 2 : The Square Brush Movement and Social Realism

These artists lived and painted in colonies away from London which had for long dominated the art world. We find Stanhope Forbes, Frank Bramley and Walter Langley living amongst the fishermen and sailors in Newlyn, James Guthrie, E.A.Walton and other Glasgow Boys living and painting in the rural community of Cockburnspath, and in Hertfordshire George Clausen records the passing of the old agriculture where hard manual work is being replaced by machinery.

Lecture 3 Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Modernism

In 1886 the New English Art Club was established to represent new French ideas, and John Singer Sargent brought Claude Monet’s paintings to London to show at the NEAC which became the centre of the avant garde.

Walter Sickert also had close links with France and gathered around him a group of young artists known as the London Impressionists, and was also instrumental in establishing the Camden Town Group of young artists deeply influenced by Impressionism and Post Impressionism. They included Spencer Gore, Harold Gilman, Robert Bevan and Charles Ginner.

Roger Fry, the great art critic and advocate of modern art, curated two major exhibitions 1910-1912 devoted to French Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Modernism. For the first time British artists could see the work of Gauguin, Van Gogh, Matisse, Picasso and many others. The exhibitions shook the Art Establishment to its roots and took British art in a new direction as can be seen in the work of the Bloomsbury Group and the Vorticists.