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British, Irish & Scottish Paintings

George II established the Royal Academy of the Arts in 1768, giving British art a voice independent of the powerful Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris. During the Georgian period of 1720 to 1830, a refined Neoclassic style dominated taste in the great houses of England.

The Victorian period of the 1830s through 1900 matches the exuberant Romantic period. One important artistic group of this period, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) of 1848-1853, combined historic styles and startling modern realism into a new painterly language to shock people out of the malaise of the Industrial era.

In the 20th century, the sun finally set on the British Empire. Francis Bacon (1909-1992) and Lucien Freud (1922-2011) are two important British artists of this period. Each used a traditional painting style, in sharp contrast with the prevailing abstract styles, to paint deep, psychologically penetrating studies.

Quick Facts

  • In the 1990s, Charles Saatchi, a London advertising magnate, promoted a group of artists who created large-scale, highly finished works containing signifiers easily understood by the general public
  • Damien Hirst (b. 1965), known in part for his dot paintings and paintings incorporating butterflies, is the best known of the Young British Artists (YBAs)
  • Hirst had his own sale, without the aid of his dealer, selling 223 works for a total of $200.70 as the economy was imploding

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