19th Century Paintings

19th Century Paintings

From the beginning of the 1800s we saw a huge expansion in British & European art movements. The Victorian era produced a number of distinct artistic movements.


Impressionism is a 19th-century art movement, associated especially with French artists. Artists such as Claude Monet, Pierre Auguste Renoir and Camille Pissarro. They attempted to accurately and objectively record visual ‘impressions’ by using small, thin, visible brushstrokes. These coalesced to form a single scene. They emphasize movement and the changing qualities of light. Being anti-academic in its formal aspects, the impressionists responded to traditions. These had recently excluded them from the government-sponsored annual exhibitions called Salons. They responded by creating independent exhibitions outside of the established venues of the day.


Romanticism embodies a broad range of disciplines, from painting to music to literature. The ideals present in each of these art forms reject order, harmony, and rationality. They embraced both classical art and Neoclassicism. Instead, Romantic artists emphasized the individual and imagination. Another defining Romantic ideal was an appreciation for nature. With many turning to plein air painting, which brought artists out of dark interiors and enabled them to paint outside. Artists also focused on passion, emotion, and sensation over intellect and reason.

Prominent Romantic painters include Henry Fuseli, who created strange, macabre paintings that explored the dark recesses of human psychology. William Blake, whose mysterious poems and images conveyed mystical visions and his disappointment in societal constraints.


As its name suggests, the Neoclassical period drew upon elements from classical antiquity. Archaeological ruins of ancient civilizations in Athens and Naples that were discovered at the time reignited a passion for all things past. Artists strove to recreate the great works of ancient art. This translated to a renewed interest in classical ideals of harmony, simplicity, and proportion.

Neoclassical artists were influenced by classical elements. In particular, a focus on idealism. Inevitably, they also included modern, historically relevant depictions in their works. Italian sculptor Antonio Canova drew upon classical elements in his marble sculptures. He avoided the cold artificiality that was represented in many of these early creations.

Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (later known as the Pre-Raphaelites) was a group of English painters, poets, and art critics, founded in 1848. William Holman HuntJohn Everett MillaisDante Gabriel RossettiWilliam Michael RossettiJames CollinsonFrederic George Stephens and Thomas Woolner. They formed a seven-member “Brotherhood”. This was modelled in part on the Nazarene movement.[1] The Brotherhood was only ever a loose association and their principles were shared by other artists of the time. These included Ford Madox BrownArthur Hughes and Marie Spartali Stillman. Later followers of the principles of the Brotherhood included Edward Burne-JonesWilliam Morris and John William Waterhouse.

The group sought a return to the abundant detail, intense colours and complex compositions of Quattrocento Italian art. They rejected what they regarded as the mechanistic approach first adopted by Mannerist artists who succeeded Raphael and Michelangelo. The Brotherhood believed the Classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art. Hence the name “Pre-Raphaelite”. In particular, the group objected to the influence of Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder of the English Royal Academy of Arts., The group associated their work with John Ruskin,[3] an English critic whose influences were driven by his religious background. Christian themes were abundant.

The group continued to accept the concepts of history painting and mimesis, imitation of nature, as central to the purpose of art. The Pre-Raphaelites defined themselves as a reform movement, created a distinct name for their form of art. They published a periodical, The Germ, to promote their ideas. The group’s debates were recorded in the Pre-Raphaelite Journal. The Brotherhood separated after almost five years.

19th Century Paintings

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