Henry Wallis, ‘Chatterton’ 1856
Henry Wallis, Chatterton 1856 . Tate

Room 7 in Walk Through British Art

1840

13 rooms in Walk Through British Art

The Escape of Francesco Novello di Carrara, with his Wife, from the Duke of Milan

Sir Charles Lock Eastlake, The Escape of Francesco Novello di Carrara, with his Wife, from the Duke of Milan  exhibited 1850

Part of the cultural background to Romanticism was an explosion of historical writing. The medieval period was especially popular. Eastlake took this subject from a history of the Italian republics in the Middle Ages by Simonde de Sismondi. A liberal Swiss Protestant, Sismondi showed how Italy had been damaged by the transfer of power from local communities to tyrants like the Medici. Here, in an episode of 1389, the last lord of Padua flees the Duke of Milan. Contemporary Italians were being driven into exile for liberal sympathies and attempts to unify the country.

Gallery label, November 2016

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

1/30
artworks in 1840

Omnibus Life in London

William Maw Egley, Omnibus Life in London  1859

Egley conveys the claustrophobia of the inside of an omnibus (a horse-drawn equivalent of today’s buses). People from different parts of society, from the old country woman with her piles of baggage to the city clerk with his cane, were forced to share a small compartment. Egley painted the carriage in a coachbuilder’s yard and posed models in a makeshift ‘carriage’ made from boxes and planks in his back garden in Paddington. The Illustrated London News said ‘the stern and trying incidents’ would be ‘recognized by thousands of weary wayfarers through the streets of London.’

Gallery label, August 2018

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

2/30
artworks in 1840

The Swiss Alps at the Earl’s Court Exhibition

Philip Wilson Steer, The Swiss Alps at the Earl’s Court Exhibition  1887

The Earl’s Court Exhibition of 1887 was the first of four, devoted in turn to America, Italy, France and Germany. The ‘Alps’ were the painted backdrop to the display about America which owed much of its success to Colonel Cody’s (‘Buffalo Bill’) Wild West Show. Steer’s use of sombre colours and decorative surface pattern echoes the work of Whistler and Japanese prints. In the following year he began to adopt the style and technique of the French impressionists, and painted a series of beach scenes in luminous colours.

Gallery label, November 2016

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

3/30
artworks in 1840

Edfu, Upper Egypt

John Frederick Lewis, Edfu, Upper Egypt  1860

This scene shows the Egyptian Temple of Horus (237–57 BCE), near the city of Edfu. It was painted in Lewis’s studio in London. He based the work on drawings he made while living in Cairo in the 1840s, during a period of rapid modernisation in Egypt. New steamboats and railways opened up the region to foreign artists, but they often left contemporary life out of their pictures to appeal to European fantasies of the Middle East. Here Lewis shows the ancient temple and nearby village awash with sand. Lewis counterpoints the temple’s carved figures with Bedouin men breaking their journey.

Gallery label, October 2020

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

4/30
artworks in 1840

Blossoms

Albert Moore, Blossoms  1881

Moore came under the influence of Japanese art and ancient Greek sculpture in the 1860s as can be seen in the design and subtle colour of this work. Blossoms reflects both sources: the pose and rippled drapery of the single female figure are suggestive of an antique statue of Venus, while the delicate colouring and decorative background of flowers is an exercise in ‘Japonisme’. It is also a celebration of female beauty and of ‘art for art’s sake’.

Gallery label, November 2016

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

5/30
artworks in 1840

The Winter Sun

John William North, The Winter Sun  exhibited 1891

North was known for his pictures of tangled vegetation painted in subdued shades of brown and orange. Here, a figure is hidden in the dense undergrowth on the right, fanning a fire with a blanket. Smoke rises from the ground behind the figure. North was connected to a group of artists known as the Idyllists. Their paintings depicted idealised rural landscapes. They felt the countryside could provide peace, comfort and a spiritual connection, at a time when rural England was being rapidly industrialised. North opposed the enclosure of common lands and campaigned for rural sanitation and social housing.

Gallery label, November 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

6/30
artworks in 1840

Crepuscule in Flesh Colour and Green: Valparaiso

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Crepuscule in Flesh Colour and Green: Valparaiso  1866

In 1866 Whistler sailed from London to the Chilean port of Valparaiso, apparently intending to fight for Chile in their war against Spain. He painted this work there, and the title indicates that Whistler's main intention was to capture the effect of twilight (crepuscule) through the use of colour.

The work is thought to show the withdrawal of British, American and French fleets from the port. The Spanish had announced their intention to bombard the city, which they did this the following day. By then, Whistler had fled to the hills on horseback.

Gallery label, August 2018

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

7/30
artworks in 1840

The Flight out of Egypt

Richard Dadd, The Flight out of Egypt  1849–50

In the early 1840s Richard Dadd accompanied Sir Thomas Phillips on a long tour of the Middle East as a travelling artist. On his return he showed signs of mental disturbance and murdered his father, claiming he was under the influence of the Egyptian god Osiris. Untitled by the artist, this painting is an assemblage of some of the scenes he encountered. In a letter of 1842, Dadd revealed his elation and confusion: ‘the excitement of these scenes has been enough to turn the brain of an ordinary weak-minded person like myself, and often I have lain down at night with my imagination so full of wild vagaries that I have really and truly doubted my own sanity.’

Gallery label, November 2016

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

8/30
artworks in 1840

Past and Present, No. 3

Augustus Leopold Egg, Past and Present, No. 3  1858

The final scene in this series is set under the Adelphi arches, by the River Thames in London. A woman shelters her young child, having been made to leave the family home following an affair. The posters behind her advertise two plays – Victims and A Cure for Love – and Pleasure Excursions to Paris. These are ironic comments on her situation. In Victorian Britain, an affair was far more serious for a woman than a man. During debates about divorce in 1857, the Lord Chancellor testified that a ‘wife might …condone an act of adultery on the part of the husband; but a husband could not condone a similar act on the part of a wife’.

Gallery label, August 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

9/30
artworks in 1840

Past and Present, No. 1

Augustus Leopold Egg, Past and Present, No. 1  1858

This is the first scene in a series of three on the consequences of having an affair. A woman lies at her husband’s feet. He holds a letter, which tells of her affair, and stamps on a portrait miniature of her lover. On the left, the house of cards collapses, signifying the breakdown of the family unit. Beneath the cards is a novel by the French writer Balzac, famous for his tales of adultery. The apple in the centre has been cut in two. One half, representing the wife, has fallen to the floor. The other, representing the husband, has been stabbed with a knife.

Gallery label, August 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

10/30
artworks in 1840

Lady with a Dove (Madame Loeser)

John Brett, Lady with a Dove (Madame Loeser)  1864

Jeannette Loeser, the subject of this portrait, was romantically involved with John Brett until the spring of 1865. The portrait was largely painted in Rome in the early months of 1864, and completed in London in August that year. The wing of the dove echoes the curved outline of the sitter’s skirt, and the dove motif is repeated in the mosaic brooch on her shoulder. Each corner of the frame is decorated with a winged cherub that looks into the picture as if in admiration of her beauty.

Gallery label, November 2016

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

11/30
artworks in 1840

Summer (‘Portrait’)

James Tissot, Summer (‘Portrait’)  1876

Tissot played on ambiguity in this painting. He invites the viewer to interpret it, like a problem picture. This genre of painting, with open-ended narratives, widely appealed to Victorians at the time. His model, Miss Lloyd, stands at the entrance of a billiards’ room, a space traditionally associated with men. She is either leaving or inviting someone in and her large engagement ring adds mystery as to who she is looking at. Tissot also made a print on the same subject called Portrait of Miss L… or ‘Il faut qu’une porte soit ouverte ou fermée (A Door Must Be Open or Closed). He moved to London from Paris in 1871 during the Franco-Prussian war and stayed until 1882.

Gallery label, November 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

12/30
artworks in 1840

The Golden Stairs

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt, The Golden Stairs  1880

This painting is an example of Burne-Jones’s interest in investigating a mood rather than telling a story. He deliberately made his pictures mysterious and the meaning of this work has been debated by critics. One suggestion is that the staircase, without visible beginning or end, represents continuous movement. Models for the painting include Frances Graham, daughter of Burne-Jones’s patron William Graham and Mary Gladstone, daughter of British Prime Minister WE Gladstone. Burne-Jones’s daughter, Margaret, is pictured at the top of the stairs.

Gallery label, August 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

13/30
artworks in 1840

Volunteers

Arthur Boyd Houghton, Volunteers  1861

This painting shows a group of infantrymen recruiting for the Volunteer Movement which swept Britain between 1859 and 1860. It was fuelled by the revolutions in Continental Europe in 1848 and British mistrust of France.As Houghton shows in this painting, the volunteers were mainly recruited from the middle classes. They felt it was their patriotic duty to enlist in one of the volunteer battalions. But there appears to be a general lack of interest from the civilians in this painting. The gentleman on the left is carefully not looking at the soldiers.

Gallery label, July 2007

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

14/30
artworks in 1840

The Girlhood of Mary Virgin

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin  1848–9

Christ’s mother Mary (modelled by Rosetti’s sister, Christina) is shown here as a girl. She works on an embroidery with her mother (portrayed by Rosetti’s mother, Frances). In the background, Mary’s father is shown pruning a vine. The painting is full of Christian symbolism. The palm branch and thorn on the floor represent Christ. The books symbolise hope, faith and charity. The dove signifies the Holy Spirit. Rossetti completed this painting when he was 20 years old. It was the first picture to be exhibited with the initials ‘PRB’. This stood for Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a secret society of young artists founded in London in 1848.

Gallery label, November 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

15/30
artworks in 1840

His Highness Muhemed Ali, Pacha of Egypt

Sir David Wilkie, His Highness Muhemed Ali, Pacha of Egypt  1841

This is a portrait of the Albanian Khedive (ruler) of Egypt, Muhammad Ali (1769–1849). He was a commander in the Ottoman army and had seized power after a civil war. Muhammad Ali oversaw dramatic reforms of Egyptian military, economy and culture. He commissioned this work from Wilkie. Here, he presents himself in traditional Islamic dress but sitting in a European chair and wearing a fez rather than the traditional turban. Wilkie met Muhammad Ali in Egypt on his return journey from travels in the Middle East. This was Wilkie’s last painting, he fell ill and died on his journey back to Britain.

Gallery label, August 2018

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

16/30
artworks in 1840

Mourning Angel

Sir Alfred Gilbert, Mourning Angel  1877

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

17/30
artworks in 1840

Study for ‘Saintfoin in Bloom’: View near Cobham in Kent

John Samuel Raven, Study for ‘Saintfoin in Bloom’: View near Cobham in Kent  1857

This is a study for the finished picture exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1859 and described as a view near Cobham in Kent. Saintfoin (now usually spelled sainfoin) is a wild perennial herb with tall, conical pink flowers. Once cultivated as a fodder plant, its name is French and means ‘wholesome hay’. The influence of Pre-Raphaelitism can be seen in the rich colour and foreground detail.

Gallery label, November 2016

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

18/30
artworks in 1840

Dew-Drenched Furze

Sir John Everett Millais, Bt, Dew-Drenched Furze  1889–90

Dew-Drenched Furze was painted on site in Perthshire in a wood near Birnam Hill. The Millais family had rented a holiday home there from 1881. Millais intended to capture the morning sun streaming through a clearing, illuminated by droplets of dew. This was, according to his son, a subject Millais had never painted before, and one that as he begun he feared ‘might be unpaintable.’ He claimed his inspiration for the painting was ‘the potent voice of the wood spirits'.

Gallery label, August 2018

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

19/30
artworks in 1840

Woman’s Mission: Comfort of Old Age

George Elgar Hicks, Woman’s Mission: Comfort of Old Age  1862

These two paintings make up two scenes in a triptych (three-part picture) called Woman’s Mission which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1863. The missing section is Guide of Childhood. As a group the pictures represent the same woman in her role as mother, wife and attentive daughter or, as one critic of the time put it: ‘woman in three phases of her duties as ministering angel’. The woman in both pictures bears a striking resemblance to the artist’s depictions of his own wife, Maria.

Gallery label, November 2016

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

20/30
artworks in 1840

Portrait of a Young Man

Richard Dadd, Portrait of a Young Man  1853

This portrait was painted at Bethlem Royal Hospital in London. Dadd was sent there after killing his father, who he believed was possessed by the devil. The identity of the sitter, pictured in an imaginary garden, remains unknown. The sunflower in the painting may refer to the ancient Egyptian god Osiris, who was often associated with the sun. Dadd became fixated on Osiris as his mental health declined. It is now thought he may have had schizophrenia. The red fez hat on the left may be the one Dadd wore when he was travelling in the Middle East, prior to becoming unwell.

Gallery label, May 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

21/30
artworks in 1840

The South Sea Bubble, a Scene in ‘Change Alley in 1720

Edward Matthew Ward, The South Sea Bubble, a Scene in ‘Change Alley in 1720  1847, exhibited 1847

The South Sea Bubble was a brief period of wild financial speculation in Britain. It was centred on the fortunes of the South Sea Company, which shipped people from Africa to become enslaved labourers on plantations in Central and South America. British aristocrats and leading politicians were shareholders, which gave a legitimacy to the company and its slave trading activities. The shares were extremely popular and rose rapidly in value. Many other companies, some fraudulent, issued stock. When the stock market collapsed in 1720 a large number of people were financially ruined.

Gallery label, December 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

22/30
artworks in 1840

Battersea Reach

Walter Greaves, Battersea Reach  c.1870

In the 19th century the waterfront at Chelsea, London was busy with barges and steamboats. Greaves painted this stretch of the river Thames several times. Here he includes the steeple of St Mary’s Church, Battersea.
Greaves was the son of a Chelsea boat-builder. He met the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler in 1863 and they became close friends. Whistler frequently went out on the family’s boats to paint river scenes. Greaves said ‘Chelsea was so beautiful that you couldn’t but paint it. To Mr Whistler, a boat was always a tone. To me, it was just a boat’.

Gallery label, April 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

23/30
artworks in 1840

Our English Coasts, 1852 (‘Strayed Sheep’)

William Holman Hunt, Our English Coasts, 1852 (‘Strayed Sheep’)  1852

The location shown in this painting is the Lovers’ Seat, an idyllic spot at Fairlight Glen near Hastings in Sussex. Hunt laboured here from mid-August to December 1852, enduring rain, wind and bitter cold to master his view. Despite the changes in weather, the painting seems a credible replication of particular illuminated moment. The colours used to convey light are daringly juxtaposed in order to intensify the clarity of every surface, a method that astounded audiences on both sides of the Channel.

Gallery label, November 2016

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

24/30
artworks in 1840

Dantis Amor

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Dantis Amor  1860

This was one of three panels painted by Rossetti to decorate the upper part of a settle belonging to William Morris. The subject for all three was Dante’s La Vita Nuova which Rossetti translated for his own publication, The Early Italian Poets 1861. Rossetti was fascinated by Dante’s story and saw in it a parallel with his own love for Elizabeth Siddall. Dantis Amor (Dante’s Love) is the central panel, symbolising Beatrice’s death, which occurred between the events depicted in the other two panels, The Salutation of Beatrice in Florence and The Salutation in the Garden of Eden.

Gallery label, November 2016

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

25/30
artworks in 1840

Mrs Cyprian Williams and her Two Little Girls

Philip Wilson Steer, Mrs Cyprian Williams and her Two Little Girls  1891

The unusual perspective of this composition, looking down on the subject, was influenced by the work of French artist Edgar Degas and the design of Japanese prints. It is used to convey a sense of claustrophobia and confinement. The wife of an art collector, Helen Cyprian Williams was a successful amateur artist renowned for her distinctive features and volatile temperament. The uneasy shift in scale from Mrs Williams to her daughters – and her gaze away from them, lost in thought – reinforces some undefined sense of separation. Her stillness invites us to speculate about what is running through her mind.

Gallery label, May 2007

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

26/30
artworks in 1840

The Bath of Psyche

Frederic, Lord Leighton, The Bath of Psyche  exhibited 1890

The story of Psyche comes from a tale by the Roman poet Lucius Apuleius. Psyche lived in the golden palace of Cupid, the god of love. Each night Cupid would visit Psyche’s bedroom to have sex with her, without revealing his identity. Here we see Psyche undressing to bathe before Cupid’s arrival, gazing at her reflection. Leighton based Psyche’s pose on an ancient statue of Venus Leaving the Bath that he’d seen in Naples in 1859. He may also have designed the frame, which echoes the architectural details in the background of the picture.

Gallery label, August 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

27/30
artworks in 1840

King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid

Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, Bt, King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid  1884

This work was based on Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘The Beggar Maid’. King Cophetua of Ethiopia falls in love with Penelophon, a young woman he sees begging for money. They marry, and she becomes Queen. This work was considered Burne-Jones’s greatest achievement. Critics praised it for its technical skill and for the message that love is more important than wealth and power. Through this painting and its reproduction as a print, Burne-Jones became seen in Europe as the most important symbolist painter of his generation.

Gallery label, August 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

28/30
artworks in 1840

Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge

James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Nocturne: Blue and Gold - Old Battersea Bridge  c.1872–5

Whistler preferred the calm of the River Thames at night compared to the noise and bustle of the day. Setting off on a boat at twilight, he sometimes stayed on the river all night, sketching and memorising the scene. He would later paint from memory in his studio. Here, London’s Battersea Bridge can be seen in the foreground. Chelsea Church and the lights of the newly-built Albert Bridge are visible in the distance. Whistler explained ‘I did not intend to paint a portrait of the bridge, but only a painting of a moonlight scene ... My whole scheme was only to bring about a certain harmony of colour’.

Gallery label, April 2019

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

29/30
artworks in 1840

Eve Repentant

George Frederic Watts, Eve Repentant  c.1865–97

This painting is one of a group of three paintings Watts called The Eve Trilogy that represent Eve’s ascension to life, her temptation and her grief after her downfall. The paintings were originally conceived as part of a vast epic scheme called The House of Life, but later took the form of three independent compositions. The painting shows Eve stricken with remorse leaning against a tree. The heavy flesh and downward lines of paintwork suggest the burden of sin and guilt.

Gallery label, November 2016

Image released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

License this image

30/30
artworks in 1840

Art in this room

The Escape of Francesco Novello di Carrara, with his Wife, from the Duke of Milan
Sir Charles Lock Eastlake The Escape of Francesco Novello di Carrara, with his Wife, from the Duke of Milan exhibited 1850
Omnibus Life in London
William Maw Egley Omnibus Life in London 1859
The Swiss Alps at the Earl’s Court Exhibition
Philip Wilson Steer The Swiss Alps at the Earl’s Court Exhibition 1887
Edfu, Upper Egypt
John Frederick Lewis Edfu, Upper Egypt 1860
Blossoms
Albert Moore Blossoms 1881
The Winter Sun
John William North The Winter Sun exhibited 1891

You've viewed 6/30 artworks

You've viewed 30/30 artworks

Find out more