JMW Turner is one of Britain’s best loved artists. He became known as the ‘painter of light’ due to his trademark style and use of colour in landscapes and seascapes. The Fighting Temeraire, one of his most famous oil paintings, shows the warship Temeraire being towed by a steam-powered tug on its last ever journey before being broken up. It is said to symbolise the decline of Britain’s naval power, the passing of the ‘glorious’ age of sail and the growth of ‘modern’ technology in an increasingly industrialised Britain. The industrial revolution and the history of the Royal Navy were therefore both saluted, through Turner’s revolutionary brand of romantic landscape painting.
The industrial revolution describes the dramatic and long-lasting change in Wales’s landscape and infrastructure during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As innovations in steam power and the design of machinery developed and advanced, new factories, mines, railways and canals began to radically transform the landscape, manufacturing, and the way people lived and worked.
The French revolution was a period of major uprising and upheaval for France, between 1789 and 1799, when people fought for an end to the power and privilege held by the monarchy, aristocracy and Catholic Church, over ordinary people. Maximilien Robespierre (1758 – 1794) was a powerful and ruthless figure in the revolution. He introduced the Cult of the Supreme Being as a new state religion, as part of his vision for revolutionary France.
Between the mid 1700s and mid 1800s, around 150,000 people were forced to leave their homes in the Scottish Highlands. This period of history had a profound impact on Scottish people and brought an end to cultures and traditions that had been part of Highland life for generations. The Highland Clearances, as it became known, is still a deeply emotive subject for many people, steeped in bitterness and controversy.
In 1781, France invaded the Channel Island of Jersey. It was successfully defended by the British – an important victory at a time when they were failing in their war with America (American War of Independence) and about to lose control of their American colonies. This painting celebrates the victory and commemorates the death of Major Francis Peirson and his refusal to surrender.
This entry includes graphic illustrations of war injuries which some may find upsetting.
This is a watercolour painting by Charles Bell, a British Army surgeon who helped to treat the wounded after the Battle of Waterloo. His haunting paintings are stark reminders of what early 19th century battle injuries were like. They are rare images executed by a practising surgeon and artist, which was an unusual combination. While his portraits powerfully show the agony and trauma experienced by these young men, they also describe their wounds with anatomical accuracy.
Thomas Muir was a radical, who campaigned for political reform in Scotland. He was eventually accused of sedition and transported to Australia, following one of the most notorious and controversial trials in Scottish history. He became known as the father of Scottish democracy and one of Scotland’s five ‘political martyrs’.
Angelica Kauffman was a successful and influential artist of the mid-late 1700s, and one of only two female founder members of the Royal Academy of Arts, in London in 1768. Despite also being a skilled portrait and landscape artist, she is remembered primarily for her success as a history painter. This was seen as the most elite category in academic painting at the time, and an unusual choice for a female artist.
Kevin Dalton Johnson’s Captured Africans is a memorial to enslaved Africans transported on ships originating out of Lancaster as part of the Transatlantic slave trade. It stands on St George’s Quay in Lancaster and was unveiled in 2005.
This print was one of over a thousand satires produced by the celebrated caricaturist, James Gillray, who became known as the ‘father of the political cartoon’. In the 18th century, cartoons and caricatures were a popular way of mocking the establishment and calling them to account. They would be discussed and enjoyed in shop windows, coffee houses and taverns. The arrival of the industrial printing press in the 1800s helped to spread them far and wide, through broadsides (posters), newspapers and pamphlets. This one was inspired by the resumed hostilities and ongoing rivalry between Britain and France in 1805.