We’re now in the second room of the walk through British art, covering the period of 1650 to around 1730, a period of dramatic change. Of the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the plague, fire, the glorious revolution, and the creation of the United Kingdom in 1707. The earlier period of British art is really dominated by portraiture and it’s during the restoration period that we have the introduction of new genres. Genres such as landscape painting arrive in Britain during this period through the activities of incoming artists from the Netherlands and low countries. Other genres such as still life are also produced, as well as decorative interior painting and the introduction of the conversation piece.
Landscape painting is considered a quintessentially English, or British, genre of painting but it is in fact introduced into Britain in this period through artists such as Jan Siberechts, who arrives from Antwerp in the 1670s, the founding father of British landscape painting. Siberechts concentrated in views of country house scenes and country house portraits, birds-eye views of the English landscape. This painting shows the country house and estate of an English banker and goldsmith called John Coggs. We can see here a birds-eye view of a house and an estate north of London.
Mary Beale could be considered as the first professional female artist active in Britain. This is a real family affair. Her husband Charles primed the canvases, mixed the pigments and took care of all the accounts. Her children, Charles and Bartholomew, also acted as assistants. This painting of a young girl was an attempt to paint quickly and to paint in a fashion that would be all in one go and dry quickly and be a resolved picture. The attempt didn’t quite work and we can see from the painting here that she had to go back and retouch the painting.
These two small sketches on paper are Mary Beale’s children, who she often painted. We don’t know if they were produced as studies for a larger, more finished, painting or if they were just simply studies for her own pleasure. The two paintings emerged on the French art market fairly recently and were previously unknown. The paintings were subsequently acquired by the Tate and are shown here for the first time to the public.