How the Industrial Revolution Influenced Artistic Production

How the Industrial Revolution Influenced Artistic Production
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  • 0:05 The Production of Art
  • 0:52 The Industrial Revolution
  • 1:54 The Industrial…
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore the influence of the Industrial Revolution on the arts during the 18th century. Then test your understanding with a brief quiz.

The Production of Art

We are constantly surrounded by the influences of industry. Technology is everywhere, and we use it so often that most of us really don't know how to live without it. But, life wasn't always like that. Once, times were simpler. People worked hard, neighbors knew each other in their small countryside villages, everyone was honest, kids behaved, etc., etc. Okay, so life wasn't always that perfect. But the development of industrial production, called the Industrial Revolution, did change society in some pretty dramatic ways. Some changes influenced how people moved from place to place. Some changes influenced how products were made, sold, and bought. And some changes even influenced art.

The Industrial Revolution

Let's start with a little bit of background about the Industrial Revolution. Throughout the early 18th century, philosophers began writing about ration, logic, and order both in the sciences and in society, a movement called the Enlightenment. Notably, Sir Isaac Newton urged the world to look to empirical science for answers, believing in only that which could be tested and proven through controlled experiments. England and France were soon in the grip of enlightened thought, and inventors popped up like daisies, creating new machines to help create more accurate scientific experiments. And eventually those experiments led to a major breakthrough in the 1740s: the steam engine. The steam engine used coal and water to power a machine, first used to create factories that produced items at a much quicker rate, and later used for transportation. This was the start of the Industrial Revolution. By the end of the century, coal and iron ruled the world, and nations entered into their first periods of apparently limitless industrial production.

The Industrial Revolution and the Arts

The Industrial Revolution influenced every aspect of European society, so really, why shouldn't it have a dramatic impact on the arts as well? Let's start by looking at painting. Now, painting did not suddenly become produced in industrial factories or on an industrial scale. But the subjects of paintings did reflect the new devotion to science and progress. This is A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery, painted around 1763 by the English artist Joseph Wright of Derby. In this scene, a scholar in a red coat lectures on the solar system using a mechanical model called an 'orrery.' Everyone present - men, women, and children - watches with fascination. The dramatic shadows created by the single source of light in the orrery reveal the enlightened belief that all truth comes from knowledge. This sort of painting was very popular during the Industrial Revolution because it glorified all that the industrialists believed in - truth, logic, progress, and the use of technology to create a better society.

A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery
A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery

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