British Neoclassical Painters

Instructor: Anne Butler

Anne has a bachelor's in K-12 art education and a master's in visual art and design. She currently works at a living history museum in Colorado.

The neoclassical period sounds boring, but it wasn't. It was a time of great archaeological discoveries. These new discoveries inspired painters everywhere to create scenes of ancient life. Britain was home to some of these artists.

Classical Revival

The neoclassical period started around the 1660s with architecture, but it really didn't pick up steam until the 1750s and lasted until about 1830. Artists throughout Europe were inspired by the excavations of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the 1730s and 1740s. Unearthed from the damage of Mount Vesuvius' eruption, these two cities brought to the world previously unseen views of Roman life. Western artists found inspiration in these artifacts, and everyone from painters, writers, and sculptors depicted scenes from history, portraits, and landscapes. Subjects in paintings wore Grecian or Roman costumes and backgrounds usually included ancient ruins. Each painter strove for accuracy, including the neoclassical painters of Britain.

England's Painters

Although a majority of neoclassical painters were French, England had a handful of their own painters. Most were men, but there were a few women. Some focused solely on portraits, but some created history paintings as well. A history painting is a painting that has a message or tells a story of something that happened in history, whether real history or something from mythology.

John Hoppner was a portrait painter whose painters worked in the court of King George II. He was greatly favored by George III, sparking rumors John was his son. George III even paid for Hoppner to attend the Royal Academy Schools. He was later appointed portrait painter in 1789 to the Prince of Wales, who became George IV. Hoppner's best works were considered to be those of women and children.

Louisa Lane Called Cecilia by John Hoppner
hoppner

Thomas Stothard was an illustrator as well as a painter. He studied at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where he became a librarian in 1812. His passion for literature is shown in his work, as he illustrated many works of literature and other books.

Prospero, Miranda, and Ariel from The Tempest by Thomas Stothard
stothard

John Hamilton Mortimer was another neoclassical painter. He did portraits as well as historical paintings. Many of these paintings depicted battle scenes.

John Hamilton Mortimer Self-Portrait
mortimer

John Flaxman was a sculptor as well as a painter. He was one of the leading neoclassic artists in England. He studied Greek art and brought that knowledge to his works.

One little-known female neoclassical British painter was Mary Gartside. She was a botanical artist who also wrote of many ideas on color theory.

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