It was during the 20th-century that British painters made a big impact in changing the course of painting’s history. These famous British artists were among the first to start painting experiences and visions rarely ever painted before. Some of the most important innovations included an introduction to the new understanding of the human body and redefinition of the space.
During the past of British art, at the forefront of landscape paintings, early abstract works, and innovations in the use of materials, we acknowledge the artists from this part of the world. In a similar manner, as one defines the importance of French art, British painters pushed the definition of creativity. Greatly influenced by the early modern art occurring in America, British painters followed the birth of every major movement across the ocean.
Editors’ Tip: British Painting: The Golden Age (World of Art)
For many, the period between the 17th and 18th-century is considered as the Golden Age for British art. This period is recognized as the time the creativity of this region elevated the art status of this country. The most important features in this book deal with the social changes due to the industrial revolution; the transformation of landscape painting from the sublime to the naturalistic rural countryside, and the contribution of British painting to modernity using effects of light and color. Covering the production of some of the most celebrated artists such as Hogarth, Ramsay, Reynolds, Gainsborough, Turner, among others, the book explores how have the British artists revolutionized landscape painting and portraiture painting as well. For the understanding of the development of Modern Art, one needs to understand the root of knowledge, and as such, this book is an excellent guide to the masterpieces of England’s art.
Known for his bold, grotesque, emotionally charged, and raw imagery, Francis Bacon is one of the most celebrated British painters. Drifting in-between figuration and abstraction, Bacon frequently places his figures in an isolated geometric space. His breakthrough came due to his famous triptych painting Three Studies for Figure at the Base of the Crucifix. Painted in an immediate aftermath of the Second World War, it defined Bacon as a unique bleak chronicler of the human condition.
Featured image: Francis Bacon – Triptych Of Lucian Freud. Image via wikipedia.com
Considered as one of the most influential and famous British artists of the 20th-century David Hockney was an important figure in the 60s pop art movement. Working across an array of artistic disciplines, including printmaking, photography, and stage design, Hockney is the most recognized for his portraiture works, and depictions of the hot LA summers by the pool. Painting his friends, lovers, and relatives, Hockney’s own presence inside his work is implied through the perspective lines. Today his images are considered some of the most recognizable works of art history.
Featured image: David Hockney – Two Figures by the Pool. Image via wallpaper.com
Work of Lucian Freud is most noted for its psychological penetration, often researching the relationship between the artist and his model. His studio, a cave of incredible stories is considered as one of the most mysterious places of production of art’s history. His portraiture and figure paintings expose the body as it is and there is a characteristic high viewpoint in almost all of his work. Researching and playing with flesh colors, Freud exposed the naked human body, which he often juxtaposed with various animals. Many of his fellow artists sat for him. Among some of the most famous names of his models was Francis Bacon with whom Freud formed a group, later known as The School of London.
Featured image: Lucian Freud – Benefits Supervisor Sleeping. Image via tate.org.uk
Best known for his paintings and collage works, Richard Hamilton is in fact considered as the author of the first Pop Art image. His 1955 exhibition Man, Machine, and Motion, and his famous collage work Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? produced for the 1956 exhibition This is Tomorrow, by many critics and art historians are considered the earliest works of pop art. For the creation of his celebrated collage works, Hamilton used advertisements from the mass circulation newspapers and magazines and by doing this, helped to define the famous movement of the 1960s. Understanding that ‘Pop Art is: popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business’, Hamilton stressed its everyday and commonplace values.
Featured image: Richard Hamilton - Print. Image via tate.org.uk
Bridget Riley is the British abstract painter who came into celebrity during the emergence of the 1960s Op Art movement. Her early work, using the strong contrast of black and white lines, created an optical illusion of movement within the static image. Included in the 1965 exhibition The Responsive Eye, Riley’s paintings were shown alongside Victor Vasarely, Frank Stella, and other renowned artists. At the beginning of the 70s art era, Riley introduced color to her work and continued to trick the eye, experimenting with shifting patterns of forms and changing optical mixtures. It is her black and white work, sometimes described as producing sensations such as seasickness and skydiving, that Riley is the most famous for and that puts her among one of the most famous British painters of the 20th century.
Featured image: Bridget Riley - Portrait. Image via pinterest.com
Frank Auerbach is known as the author of some of the most inventive paintings depicting people and urban landscapes. Born in Berlin, he has been living in the UK as a naturalized British citizen since 1947. His trademark, the thick, nearly grotesque impasto, helps the artist create fluid works which have been described as capturing the essence of a person or a place. While his style appears as an example of the expressionist painting, it is in fact rooted in realism. Influenced by some of the masters of figurative painting, such as Titian, Rembrandt, and Peter Paul Rubens, Auerbach has helped form a new aesthetic language of painting.
Featured image: Frank Auerbach – EOW on Her Blue Eiderdown. Image via pinterest.com
As one of the most prominent British painters, Howard Hodgkin introduced novel thinking into the art of painting. Shifting from the traditional canvas surface onto the hardness of the wooden support, such as drawing boards and door frames, Hodgkin defined a painting as an object. Followed up with the use of broad gestural brushstrokes and a vivid palette of contrasting colors, the rectangular picture frame was even more emphasized pushing his revolutionary idea forward. Characteristic of his early work are compositions embracing flatness and collage. In his later years, Hodgkin introduced more complex fluid patterning in his painting as well as branching out into the printmaking production as well.
Featured image: Howard Hodgkin - Portrait. Image via tate.org.uk
L.S. Lowry is the most famous for his depictions of various scenes in the industrial districts of North West England. Best known for his urban landscapes and his distinctive style of painting the human figure, defined as ‘matchstick men’, the extent of his production was only recognized after the artist’s death. Due to the stylized figures and the lack of weather effects in his paintings, Lowry’s production is frequently linked or defined as naïve art. His frequent subject matter included mysterious unpopulated landscapes, ominous portraits, and marionette works.
Featured image: L.S. Lowry – Market Scene, North City. Image via wikipedia.org
English painter Stanley Spencer is recognized as one of the most original figures in 20th-century British art. His native village Cookham, where the artist lived for most of his life, played a large part in the imagery of his paintings. His production includes images which depict imaginative and religious subjects, landscapes, and occasional portraits. In the end, he is most known for his religious paintings, depicting Biblical scenes occurring in his village. Referring to his village as a village in Heaven, Spencer depicted his fellow villagers as their Gospel counterparts.
Featured image: Stanley Spencer – Self Portrait, detail. Image via widewalls.ch
Themes of magical realism steam through Peter Doig’s work. Capturing moments of tranquility, and the impossible silence Doig’s work has gained worldwide acknowledgment. Drawing images from his childhood, canoes and water are recognized as his seminal images. The reflection of the canoes in the water are understood as a metaphor of a double life, a fantasy mirror into the unknown. His semi-abstract landscape paintings, draw inspiration from photographs, newspaper clippings and movie scenes. Many have named famous painters such as Munch, Monet, and Klimt as important figures shaping his approach to paint, color, and subject matter.
All images used for illustrative purposes only. Featured image: Peter Doig – Echo Lake. Image via tate.org.uk