Civil War and Commonwealth

Civil War and Commonwealth refers to the period from 1641 when the Civil War broke out to 1660 when the monarchy was restored

Sir Peter Lely, ‘Susanna and the Elders’ c.1650–5
Sir Peter Lely
Susanna and the Elders c.1650–5
William Dobson, ‘Endymion Porter’ c.1642–5
William Dobson
Endymion Porter c.1642–5
Henry Gibbs, ‘Aeneas and his Family Fleeing Burning Troy’ 1654
Henry Gibbs
Aeneas and his Family Fleeing Burning Troy 1654

The outbreak of the English Civil War in 1641 brought to an end the great artistic flowering that took place under Charles I (Stuart), exemplified in the art of his court painter van Dyck, who died that year. During the war, van Dyck’s place was filled by his English follower William Dobson. Following Charles’s defeat by Parliamentary forces led by Cromwell, and his execution in 1649, the monarchy and the House of Lords were abolished and England was declared ‘a Commonwealth or free state’. From then to the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 the Commonwealth was in effect ruled by Cromwell. The period is also known as interregnum (between reigns).

During this period painter Sir Peter Lely dominated the artistic scene. He came to prominence after the death of van Dyck and then, with the restoration of the monarchy remained one of the leading portrait painters during the reign of Charles II.

See also


'A Carelesse Romance': Fashion and Fantasy in van Dyck's Portraits of the English Court

As court painter, Anthony van Dyck was largely responsible for creating the glamorous image that surrounds the court of King ...
Tate Paper

Van Dyck and Tapestry in England

Van Dyck first came to England in 1620, when the Surrey-based Mortlake Manufactory began making tapestries. Simon Turner considers whether ...

Tate Britain Exhibition

William Dobson, 1611-1646: an Exhibition of Paintings

12 Oct – 11 Nov 1951
William Dobson, 1611-1646: an Exhibition of Paintings: past Tate Britain exhibition

War artists

War artists are artists who are commissioned through an official scheme to record the events of war