Nineteenth Century British Art Reassessed

Module code: HA3025

Module co-ordinator: to be confirmed

Module Overview

British art between 1800-1900 has often been the victim of critical and art-historical scorn, often seen as producing ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘prosaic’ art. By taking this module students will be invited to make their own reassessments of the period under view in order to discover how these ‘modernist’ stereotypes were formed in order to misdirect and promote new movements in art after 1900. The one-dimensional typecast of the ‘conservative’, ‘moralist’ and ‘materialistic’ Victorians is exploded by revisionist investigations that have found examples of innovation, subversion and division in the ranks of this presumed regressive and orthodox art world.

The Royal Academy, its premier institution, had only just been established approximately 30 years before the nineteenth century had begun, so ideas of the immutable foundations of the Victorian art world seem fanciful. Exploding another myth, it should be remembered that the genre painter W.P. Frith’s famed ‘Victorian’ industry was employed, not as a public lesson in self-improvement, but to support his second illegitimate family. By the end of the module, students will have a better understanding of the true range of colourful individuals and contentious incidents that populated the history of British art from Turner, Constable and Haydon at the opening of the Century to Leighton, Whistler and Sargent at its close.

Assessment Methods

  • Three hour examination at the end of the semester (50%)
  • 2,500-3,000 word essay (50%)