Introducing the paintings of Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and their contemporaries. An age of aristocratic patronage, European travel and classical influence.
The 18th century marked the beginning of a great age in British art, reflected in the portraiture and landscape painting on display. A dramatic growth in Britain's wealth and the building of countless grand houses brought with it the demand for lavish displays of art and design as indicators of wealth and taste.
Portraiture became particularly fashionable, leading to rising numbers of 'face painters'. The ability to capture a likeness was most important but artists could also enhance a sitter's image with qualities such as prestige, wisdom or power. The landscape tradition arose initially from the need to document the land, but gradually became established as a serious art form and a distinctively British tradition.
The growth of European travel in the 1700s had a huge impact on British culture. The Grand Tour became an essential part of every young gentleman's education; a leisurely journey through Europe to study art, history and politics. Ancient antiquities and continental works of art, acquired as Grand Tour souvenirs, flooded into Britain.
The influence of Europe on British art emerged in subjects from classical antiquity and a new kind of painting called the Grand Style. Classical, historical and literary scenes were popular, and inspired radical changes in portraiture and landscape. Interest in Greek and Roman remains also fostered fresh interpretations of ancient designs by pioneers of decorative art such as Josiah Wedgwood.
Key works usually on display in these galleries include:
If you are coming to see a particular work please contact the gallery in advance to ensure it is on display.