British painting in the 17-18th centuries (Британская живопись 17-18 вв.)
British painting in the 17-18th centuries (Британская живопись 17-18 вв.)
1) Some Famous Illuminated Manuscripts.
It is usual to regard English painting as beginning with the Tudor
period and for this are several reasons. Yet the fact remains that
painting was practised in England for many hundred years before the first
Tudors came to the throne.
The development of the linear design in which English artists have
always excelled can be traced back to the earliest illuminations
brilliantly evolved in irish monastic centres and brought to Northumbria in
the seventh century. Its principal feature is that wonderful elaboration
of interlaced ornament derived from the patterns of metal-work in the
Celtic Iron Age, which is to be found in the Book of Kells and Lindesfarne
Gospel, its Northumbrian equivalent.
The greatest achievement in Irish manuscript illumination, the Book
of Kells is now generally assigned to the late eighth or early ninth
century. The Book of Kells is a manuscrept of the gospes of rather large
size(33*24 cm)written on thick glazed vellum. Its pages were originally
still larger; but a binder, a century or so ago, clipped away their
margins, cutting even into edges of the illuminations. Otherwise the
manuscript is in relatively good condition, in spite of another earlier
misadventure. The great gospel, on account of its wrought shrine, was
wickedly stolen in the night from the sacresty of the church and was found
a few months later stripped of its gold, under a sod. Finally the
manuscript passed to trinity college, where it is today.
No manuscript approaches the book of kells for elaborate
ornamentation. A continuous chain of ornamentation runs through the text.
The capitals at the beginning of each paragraph--two, three, cour to a page-
-are made of brightly coloured entwinements of birds, snakes, destorted men
and quadrupeds, fighting or performing all sorts of acrebatic feats. Other
animals wander about the pages between the lines or on top of them.
The thirteenth century had been the century of the great cathedrals,
in which nearly all branches of art had their share. Work on these immense
enterprises contunued into the fourteenth century and even beyond, but they
were no longer the main focus of art. We must remember that the world had
changed a great deal during that peiod. In the middle of the twelfth
century Europe was still a thinly populated continent of peasants with
moasteries and baron's castles as the main centres of power and learning.
But a hundred and fifty years later towns had grown into centres of trade
whose burghers felt increasingly independent of the poweof the Church and
the fuedal lords. Even the nobles no longer lived a life of grim seclusion
in their fortified manors, but moved to the cities with their comfort and
fashionable luxury there to display their wealth at the courts of the
mighty. We can get a very vivid idea of what life in the fourteenth
century was like if we remember the works of Chaucer, with his knights and
squires, friars and artisans.
The love of fourteenth-century painters for graceful and delicate
details is seen in such famous illustrated manuscripts as the English
Psalter known as Queen Mary's Psalter(about 1310). One of the pages shows
Christ in the temple, conversing with the learned scribes. They have put
him on a high chair, and he is seen explaining some point of doctrine with
the characteristic gesture used by medieval artists when they wanted to
draw a teacher. The scribes raise their hands in attitude of awe and
astonishment, and so do Christ's parents, who are just coming on to the
scene, looking at each other wonderingly. The method of telling the story
is still rather unreal. The artist has evidently not yet heard of Giotto's
discovery of the way in which to stage a scene so as to give it life.
Christ is minute in comparison with the grown-ups, and there is no attempt
on the part of the artist to give us any idea of the space between the
fugures. Moreover we can see that all the faces are more of less drawn
according to one simple formula, with the curved eyebrows, the mouth drawn
downwards and the curly hair and beard. It is all the more surprising to
look down the same page and to see that another scene has been added, which
has nothing to do with the sacred text. It is a theme from the daily life
of the time, the hunting of ducks with a hawk. Much to the delight of the
man and woman on horseback, and of the boy in front of them, the hawk has
just got hold of a duck, while tow others are flying away. The artist may
not have looked at real boys when he painted the scene above, but he had
undoubtedly looked at real hawks and ducks when he painted the scene below.
Perhaps he had too much reverence for the biblical narrative to bring his
observationn of actual life into it. He preferred to keep the two things
apart: the clear symbolic way of telling a story with easily readable
gestures and no distracting details, and on the margin of the page, the
piece from real life, which reminds us once more that this is Chaucer's
century. It was only in the cours of the fourteenth century that the two
elements of this art, the graceful narrative and the faithful observation,
were gradually fused. Perhaps this would not have happened so soon without
the influence of Italian art.
2) 16th and 17th Centuries.
When Henry VII abolished Papal authority in England in 1534 and
ordered the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 he automatically brought
to an end the tradition of religious art as it had been practised in the
middle ages and in monastic centres. The break was so complete that
painting before and after seem entirely different thing, in subject, style
and medium. The local centres of culture having vanished, the tendency of
painting to be centralized in London and in the service of the court was
affirmed. Secular patronage now insisted on portraiture, and the habit
grew up of useng foreign painters--an artificial replacement of the old,
international interchange of artists and craftsmen. Yet the sixteenth
century was the age of Humanism which had created a new interest in the
3) Painting In The 16th --17th Centuries.
In the sixteenth century Holbein came to England, bringing with him a
much more highly developed pictorial tradition with a much fuller sense of
plastic relief. Holbein himself was a supreme master of linear design; he
could draw patterns for embroidery and jewellery as no one else, but he
never entirely sacrificed the plastic feeling for form to that, and in his
early work he modelled in full light and shade. Still, it was not
difficult for him to adapt himself somewhat to the English fondness for
flat linear pattern. Particularly in hes royal portraits, e.g. the
portrait of Henry VIII, we find and insistence on the details of the
embroidered patterns of the clothes and the jewellery, which is out of key
with the careful modelling of hands and face.
Finally, by Elizabeth's reign almost all trace of Holbein's plastic
feeling was swept away and the English instinct for linear description had
But the English were not left long in peace with their linear style.
Charles I, who had travelled abroad was bound to see that Rubens
represented a much higher conception of art than anything England
possessed, and invited him over. He was followed by Van Dyck, who came to
stay. And although he too could not help feeling the influence of the bias
of English taste and learned to make his images more flatly decorative and
less powerfully modelled, than had been his wont, none the less, he set a
new standard of plastic design, and this was carried on by Lely. Lely was
not a great artist, but he was thoroughly imbued with the principles of
three demensional plastic design. Though his portraits lack psychological
subtlety, and fail to reveal clearly the sitter's individuality, they are
firmly and consistently constructed.
Kneller of the next generation caried on the same tradition.
What of native English talent? The approach of the Civil war stripped
away the polish and brought out a sterner strain of character no less in
the aristocratic opponents. In the realism with which he depicted the
militant Cavalier, William Dobson(1610-46) marks a breakaway from Van
Dyckian elegance. Born in London, Dobson comes suddenly into prominence in
royalist Oxford after the Civil War had broken out.
The painting of Endymion Porter, thefriend and agent of Charles I in
the purchase of works of art, is generally accounted Dobson's masterpiece.
The most striking aspect of the work is its realism. Though Endymion
Porter is portrayed as a sportsman who has just shot a hare, there is a
stern look about his features which seems to convey that this is wartime.
The solemnity of the times is also reflected in the portraiture
produced during the Commonwealth period and one would naturally expect an
even greater refection of elegance than that of Dobson during the Puritan
dominance. Indeed a prospect of unsparing realism is set out in Cromwell's
admonition--to "remark all these ruffness, pimples, warts" and paint "
everything as you see in me".
The corresponding painter to Dobson on the Parliamentary side,
however, Robert Walker, was a much less original artist and still closely
imitated Van Dyck's graceful style.
A number of other portrait painters are of interest by reason of
their subjects. John Greenhill (c. 1644--76) is of some note as one of the
first artists to depict English actors in costume. John Riley (1646--91)
was an artist whose work is distinguished by a grave reticence. In
succession to Lely he painted many eminent people, including Dryden, and
some minor folk, as for example the aged housemaid Bridget Holmes. He was
described by Horace Walpole as "one of the best native painters who have
flourished in England".
4) Painting In The 18th Century.
The eighteenth century was the great age of British painting. It was
in this period that British art attained a distinct national character.
In the seventeenth century, art in Britain had been dominated largely by
the Flemish artist, Anthony van Dyck. In the early eighteenth century,
although influenced by Continental movements, particularly by French
rococo, British art began to develop nindependently. William Hogarth, born
just before the turn of the century, was the first major aritst to reject
foreign influence and establish a kind of art whose themes and subjects
were thoroughly British. His penetrating, witty portrayal of the
contemporary scene, his protest against social injustice and his attack on
the vulgtarities of fashianable society make him one of the most original
and significant of British artists.
Hogarth was followed by a row of illustrious painters: Thomas
Cainsborough, with his lyrical landscapes, "fancy pictures" and portraits;
the intellectual Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted charming society
portraits and became the first president of the Royal Academy; and George
Stubbs, who is only now being recognized as an artist of the greatest
visual perception and sensitivity. There are many others, including Wright
of Derby, Wilson, Lawrence, Ramsay, Raeburn, Romney, Wheatley, and the
5) Satirical Genre Painting
5.1) William Hogarth(1697--1764)
William Hogarth was unquestionably one of the greatest of English
artists and a man of remarkably individual character and thought. It was
his achievement to give a comprehensive view of social life within the
framework of moralistic and dramatic narrative. He produced portraits
which brought a fresh vitality and truth into the jaded profession of what
he called "phizmongering". He observed both high life and low with a keen
and critical eye and his range of observation was accompanied by an
exceptional capacity for dramatic composition, and in painting by a
technical quality which adds beauty to pictures containing an element of
satire of caricature.
A small stocky man with blunt pugnacious features and alert blue
eyes, he had all the sharp-wittedness of the born Cockney and an insular
pride which led to his vigorous attacks on the exaggerated respect for
fereign artists and the taste of would-be connoisseurs who brought over (as
he said) "shiploads of dead Christs, Madonnas and Holy Families" by
inferior hands. Thereis no reason to suppose he had anything but respect
for the great Italian masters, though he deliberately took a provocative
attitude. What he objected to as much as anything was the absurd
veneration of the darkness produced by time and varnish as well as the
assumption that English painters were necessarily inferior to others. A
forthrightness of statement may perhaps be related to hes North-country
inheritance, for his father came to London from West-morland, but was in
any case the expression of a democratic outlook and unswervingly honest
The fact that he was apprenticed as a boy to a silver-plate engraver
has a considerable bearing on Hogarth's development. It instilled a
decorative sense which is never absent from his most realistic productions.
It introduced him to the world of prints, after famous masters or by the
satirical commentators of an earlier day. It is the engraver's sense of
line coupled with a regard for the value of Rococo curvature which governs
his essay on aesthetics, The Analysis of Beauty.
As a painter Hogarth may be assumed to have learned the craft in
Thornhill's "academy", though his freshness of colour and feeling for the
creamy substance of oil paint suggest more acquaintance than he admitted to
with the technique of his French contemporaries. His first success as a
painter was in the "conversation pieces" in which his bent as an artist
found a logical beginning. These informal groups of family and friends
surrounded by the customary necessariesof their day-to-day life were
congenial in permitting him to treat a pictureas astage. He was not the
inventor of the genre, which can be traced back to Dutch and Flemish art of
the seventeenth century and in which he had contemporary rivals. Many were
produced when he was about thirty and soon after he made his clandestine
match with Thornhill's daughter in 1729, when extraefforts to gain a
livelihood became necessary. With many felicities of detail and
arrangement they show Hogarth still in a restrained and decorous mood. A
step nearer to the comprehensive view of life was the picture of an actual
stage, the scene from The Beggar's Opera with which he scored a great
success about 1730, making sveral versions of the painting. Two prospects
must have been revealed to him as a result, the idea of constructing his
own pictorial drama comprising various scenes of social life, and that of
reaching a wider public through the means of engraving. The first
successful siries: "The Harlot's Progress, " of which only the engraving
now exist, was immediately followed by the tremendous verve and riot of
"The Rake's Progress", c. 1732; the masterpiece of the story series the
"Marriage а la Mode" followed after an interval of twelve years.
As a painter of social life, Hogarth shows the benefit of the system
of memory training which he made a self-discipine. London was his universe
and he displayed his mastery in painting every aspect of its people and
architecture, from the mansion in Arlington Street, the interior of which
provided the setting for the disillusioned couple in the second scene of
the "Marriage а la Mode", to the dreadful aspect of Bedlam. Yet he was not
content with one line of development only and the work of his mature years
takes a varied course. He could not resist the temptation to attempt a
revalry with the history painters, though with little successs. The
Biblical compositions for St. Bartholomew's Hospital on which he embarked
after "The Rake's Progress" were not of a kind to convey his real genius.
He is sometimes satirical as in "The March of the Guards towards Scotland",
and the "Oh the Roast Beef of Old England!(Calais Gate)", which was a
product of his single expeditionabroad with its John Bull comment on the
condition of France, and also the "Election"series of 1755 with its
richness of comedy. In portraiture he displays a great variety. The charm
of childhood, the ability to compose a vivid group, a delightful delicacy
of colour appear in the "Graham Children" of 1742. The portrait heads of
his servants are penetrating studies of character. The painting of Captain
Coram, the philanthropic sea captain who took a leading part in the
foundation of the Foundling Hospital, adapts the formality of the
ceremonial portrait to a democratic level with a singularlyengaging
effects. The quality of Hogarth as an artist is seen to advantage in his
sketches and one sketch in particular, the famous "Shrimp Girl" quickly
executed with a limited range of colour, stands alone in his work, taking
its place among the masterpieces of the world in its harmonyof form and
content, its freshness and vitality.
The genius of Hogarth is such that he is often regarded as a solitary
rebel against a decaying artificiality, and yet though he had no pupils, he
had contemporaries who, while of lesser stature in one way and another,
tended in the same direction.
William Hogarth expressed in his art the new mood of national
elation, the critical spirit of the self-confident bourgeoisie and the
liberal humanitarianism of his age. He was the first native-born English
painter to become a hero of the Enlightenment. One reason for his
popularity was that the genius of the age found its highest expression in
wit. From Moliиre to Votaire, from Congreve through Swift and Pope to
Fielding, the literature of wit was enriched on a scale unprecedent since
antiquity. The great comic writers of the century exposed folly, scarified
pretension and lashed hypocrisy and cruelty.
It was the great and single-handed achievement of Hogarth to
establish comedy as a category in art to be rated as highly as comedy in
literature. According to the hierarchy of artistic categories that was
inherited from the Renaissance, istoria, --the narrative description of
elevated themes, especially from the Bible and antiquity --was the highest
branch of art measured by a scale which placed low-life genre at the
Hogarth was actually sensitive to the categorical deprecation of
comic art, and with his friend Henry Fielding set about a campaign to raise
In a number of works and statements Hogarth identified his cause with
comic literature. In his self -portrait of 1745 the oval canvas rests on
the works of Shakespeare, Milton and Swift. Because his reasons for
invoking literature were misunderstood, Hogarth exposed himself to the
charge of being a "literary" artist. The legend of the literary painter
can be traced back to his own age. "Other pictures we look at, "wrote
Charles Lamb, "his prints we read." Some of the blame for aesthetic
deprecation must be placed on the shoulders of Hogarth himself. He seems
to have even encouraged an image which mystified his critics. He remarked
of the connoisseurs "Because I hate them, they think I hate Titian and let
them!" He outraged Horace Walpole by saying that he could paint a portrait
as well as Van Dyck. He compared nature with art, to the desadvantage of
If his statements are examined carefully, it becomes apparent that he
did not attack foreign art as such, that he passionately admired the Old
What manner of man was he who executed thse portraits--so various, so
faithful, and so admirable? In the London National Gallery most of us have
seen the best and most carefully finished series of his comic paintings,
and the portrait of his own honest face, of which the bright blue eyes
shine out from the canvas and give you an idea of that keen and brave look
with which William Hogarth regarded the world. No man was ever less of a
hero; you see him before you, and can fancy what he was --a jovial, honest
London citizen, stout and sturdy; a hearly, plain-spoken man, loving his
laugh, his friend, his glass, his roast-beef of Old England, and having a
proper bourgeois scorn for foreign fiddlers, foregn singers, and, above
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