Art and Revolution 1750-1850


Europe was at war for much of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. As Napoleon and his armies rampage across the continent and into North Africa, Russia is also forced to defend its borders, and Britain joins the fray.

In this period art is employed as propaganda by all sides in the conflicts; monuments to the heroic and paintings of the suffering prevail. French artists glorify the Revolution and glamourise the military campaign while the Spanish artist Goya shows his compatriots’ suffering at the hands of the French invaders.

While documenting the political turmoil in Europe artists also delight in the exotic of newly conquered territories and colonies such as Morocco, India and the Americas. Others, such as Ingres, Fuseli and William Blake are preoccupied with their own personal visions which they paint in a combination of romanticism and the popular neoclassical style.

Just as the political map of Europe is being redrawn, daily life is also changing irrevocably. The rise of a wealthy industrial class in English society leads to changes in the subject matter of art. The newly moneyed classes want art that reflects their new found status, wealth and education - paintings that showcase their country estates, and portraits that tout their learning and record their travels to Italy.

However the effects of the Industrial Revolution hit England particularly hard. Do the seemingly idyllic landscape scenes by John Constable reflect what is happening to his beloved countryside? Do Turner’s swathes of colour acknowledge the effects of science, industry and the Enlightenment?

This course focuses on late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century painting, sculpture and architecture in Europe, particularly France and Britain. The impact of social and industrial revolution is examined, and developments in portraiture, landscape and history painting are explored. The major artists include Constable, Turner, Goya, Reynolds, Gainsborough, David, Ingres, Gericault and Delacroix.


Course work plus exam

Availability 2024

Not taught in 2024



Recommended Reading

David Blayney Brown Romanticism (Phaidon, 2001)

David Irwin, Neoclassicism (Phaidon, 1997)


Coursework + exam


ARTHIST 201: 15 points


15 points at Stage I in Art History and 30 points passed