British art: 18th century

The British avoid a revolution, engage in the slave trade, build a global empire, and begin the industrial revolution.

1700 - 1800

videos + essays

We're adding new content all the time!

Wedgwood factory, <em>The Pegasus Vase</em>
Wedgwood factory, The Pegasus Vase

This vase is made of jasper, a type of unglazed stoneware that can be stained with color before firing, which was perfected by Josiah Wedgwood by 1775 after a number of experiments.

Mary Delany and cut flowers
Mary Delany and cut flowers

Mary Delany would cut small pieces of colored paper and stick them on a black background to represent each part of a botanical specimen

Sir Joshua Reynolds, <em>Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse</em>
Sir Joshua Reynolds, Mrs. Siddons as the Tragic Muse

In picturing Sarah Siddons as the Muse of Tragedy, Sir Joshua Reynolds helped make an argument for women’s equal standing with that of men within the acting profession.

A map of Kolkata in 1785
A map of Kolkata in 1785

Surveying India with maps was a key tool for colonial and territorial acquisitions for the East India Company in the second half of the 18th century

Wren, Saint Paul’s Cathedral
Wren, Saint Paul’s Cathedral

Like a phoenix, this church rose from the ashes. Wren’s enormous dome was the first of its kind in England.

Joseph Wright of Derby, <em>A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery</em>
Joseph Wright of Derby, A Philosopher Giving a Lecture at the Orrery

This scene resembles a religious conversion, yet the central planetary model is only miraculous in its mechanics.

Thomas Gainsborough, <em>Mr. and Mrs. Andrews</em>
Thomas Gainsborough, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews

With its relaxed poses and outdoor setting, this portrait exemplifies the “conversation piece.” But is it finished?

William Hogarth, <em>A Rake’s Progress</em>
William Hogarth, A Rake’s Progress

This satirical series charts the fall of a womanizer whose decadent lifestyle lands him in debt, then bedlam.

William Hogarth, <em>Marriage A-la-Mode</em>
William Hogarth, Marriage A-la-Mode

Smooth talkers, vain aristocrats, disreputable doctors, unfaithful lovers—Hogarth’s moralizing takes no prisoners.

Sir Joshua Reynolds,<em>Lady Cockburn and Her Three Eldest Sons</em>
Sir Joshua Reynolds,Lady Cockburn and Her Three Eldest Sons

What’s with the parrot? Balancing the composition, Reynolds added his own feathery pet to this handsome family.