When you go into the British museum in London and spend some hours in it, you might walk out of it again and think: “Well, now I've seen a lot of Greek, Italian, Egypt, Chinese, and Japanese art and sculpture – what about English art itself?” Don't worry, England has quite a lot to offer – there are even a few museums that are very well worth a visit if you are interested in art, e.g. the Tate Modern (also in London).
English architecture is not all about castles and abbeys. Did you know that row houses had their origin in England? You can still visit the first row houses that were built in London. In the 1620s, those houses were built from brick (after the fire of London, it's quite easy to understand why). From the outside, they all look the same – and sometimes you might even think that this is rather boring. Not many of the original houses are still as they were in the 1620s, many alterations and renovations have been done, but if you would like to see a good example of those row houses (also called terraces these days), you could go and visit King's Bench Walk in London (Temple district).
A visitor to English castles and their gardens will immediately notice that a lot of planning must have gone into the creation of those places. English royalty – and anybody rich enough to have a huge garden – placed a huge importance on the layout of their gardens. After all, it was very important for them to impress visitors. The Royal Gardens in London are just one example of the results. The landscaping of gardens takes an immense amount of time, and the plants have to be taken care of all year round to keep a particular look. Smaller examples of these pieces of arts are smaller “living” walls or other smaller places in which plants are planted in a particular order to achieve a certain look, e.g. spelling words or painting pictures with growing plants.
The English have an incredible amount of great painters. Some of them were pioneers, others took known ways of painting to a new level. Let's have a look at some of the best painters (note that this is only a small selection)
English art was not at its best when William Hogarth made himself a name as an artist. He was an engraver and painter at the same time. During his life-time, England was waiting for English artists to take back the reign after the English art scene had been dominated mainly by foreign artists. Hogarth was the one that England had been waiting for. With him, English fine art has been revived.
Richard Wilson was as important was William Hogarth, though he was a bit younger. His influence was mainly for the English landscape painting. Richard Wilson is often seen as the father of English landscape painting, and in combination with William Hogarth, he is often called one of the reasons why the modern English school of art has become successful.
If you ever enjoyed a lovely animal painting, then you should definitely have a look at George Stubbs as he was the first English painter to focus on painting animals. He also published a book about the anatomy of horses. He studied the movements and looks of animals before he painted them. He always wanted to make sure that his paintings did look as natural as possible. This turned him into one of the most popular English painters of his time, and his animals paintings are still very popular these days.
Unfortunately, William Blake only received the attention and praise he deserved after his death. His printmaking and fine art is now seen as the work of a pioneer and visionary. You can find William Blake's works in many of the bigger museums of art.
While Thomas Girtin may not have been the best of all painters, he did play an important role when it came to turning watercolor paintings into a respected form of painting. Unfortunately, he died at a very young age, and many wondered how good he would have become if he had lived longer.
Born in the same year as Thomas Girtin, JMW Turner was also using watercolors, but also created plenty of oil paintings. He is one of England's most beloved landscape painters, and is often called “Painter of Light”. His combination of realistic landscapes with the style of Romanticism influenced many other painters.