My recent blog entries on the Cleveland Museum of Art have concentrated on art from France. Indeed, from the time of Louis XVI onward, France was Europe's trendsetter. But that is not to say that nothing was going on elsewhere in the world of art. Britain was becoming a major world power and eventually surpassed France. There was growing demand not only from the aristocracy but also from the growing merchant class for art.
We will now turn to museum's gallery of British art from the 17th through the 19th centuries.
The wealthy all wanted portraits of themselves or of their family, and there were a number of distinguished British portraitists.
Thomas Lawrence did this painting of Catherine Grey in 1794. She was an Irish-born poet and the wife of politician Lord William Manners. She rejected the portrait, saying that it was unflattering, and the painting remained unsold in the aritist's studio until his death. It was eventually acquired by John D. Rockefeller Jr., and he bequeathed the painting to the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Lawrence also did this portrait of Charlotte and Sarah Carteret-Hardy in the early 1800s. Although his work was much in demand, he was notoriously slow. It took him five years to complete this painting.
Even more famous was Thomas Gainsborough. In 1769 he did this portrait of George Pitt. Pitt looks every inch the English gentleman, although in real life he was infamous for his debauchery and abuse of his wife.
Gainsborough also did this portrait of Mary Wise in 1774. I have a branch of English ancestors with the last name of Wise. Could she be a relative of mine? Doubtful. My English ancestors were all farm laborers.
Gainsborough Dupont was the nephew and apprentice to the famous painter. He eventually opened his own successful studio, and at times it is difficult to distinguish the works of the two. This portrait of Mary Anne Jolliffe was done in 1788
A third famous name in English portraiture is that of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Reynolds was the founder and first president of the Royal Academy of the Arts. He is well known for his pictures of children. This portrait of the Ladies Amabel and Mary Jemima Yorke was done in 1761.
The most famous English landscape artist was John Constable. He was an amateur meteorologist, and in his paintings he carefully portrayed cloud formations and weather conditions. This view of Branch Hill Pond was painted in 1828.
Decades later, Victorian paintings had fallen out of style, and this work sold at auction for only 130 pounds.
Turner often portrayed the destructive force of nature, and here his atmospheric effects border on abstraction. Turner's works later exerted a powerful influence on the French Impressionists.