Victorian art's vibrant colors represented the high society of the picture of England which was shaped by the 64-year reign of Queen Victoria in the 19th century. Queen Victoria's reign saw a great expansion of the British Empire, which led to a high level of prosperity and social and fashion finery which was recorded in bright, emotional color. Though the Victorian Era of art began with a return to the classic realism which was popular during the height of ancient Roman and Greek societies, the many technological advances made during that time caused changes in the way scientists, artists and the public viewed art and aesthetics.

Time Frame

Victorian art is a name derived from time-period and encompasses the styles of art that were produced during the Victorian Era, a period identified as the time of Queen Victoria's reign. This reign extended from June, 1837 to January, 1901, and yielded an era which marks the time when the British Empire was at its most powerful.

For most of the reign of Queen Victoria, the Royal Academy of Arts led the British art world. Two of its Directors were also Directors of the recently established National Gallery, and, in 1869, the Academy moved to its current home at Burlington House in London's Piccadilly. Here the public crowded the Annual Summer Exhibition and the Winter Loan Exhibitions of work by Old Masters and British artists including Sir Edwin Landseer, known for his animal paintings, the Pre-Raphaelite artist Sir John Everett Millais and High Victorian Classicists Sir Edward Poynter and Frederic, Lord Leighton.


The works of art deposited with the Royal Academy by each Member elected to full Academician status present a vivid record of contemporary taste. This exhibition offers the opportunity to view nearly 80 Victorian paintings and sculptures from the Permanent Collection and celebrates the artists and the subjects so lauded in their day. These range from idealised nudes and scenes from mythology, biblical subjects and genre scenes illustrating contemporary moral issues, to costume portraits, the search for the exotic and landscapes and seascapes. The artists who created these works include Edwin Austin Abbey, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, William Powell Frith, David Roberts and George Frederic Watts.



Movements of art covered during the Victorian period include the Classicism era, followed by the Neoclassicism movement and includes Impressionism and Post-Impressionism as well. As a result, the Victorian art period began focused on a realism-centric style which hearkened back to classic art style used in ancient Greek and Roman pieces. The Classisism period then went through a series of influences which brought in the use of brighter colors and more emotional strokes, which replaced an attention to realistic detail in shadow and form, leading to the post-impressionism which ended the era of Queen Victoria's reign.


Realism (1850-1880)

The second half of the 19th century has been called the positivist age. It was an age of faith in all knowledge which would derive science and scientific objective methods which could solve all human problems. In the visual arts this spirit is most obvious in the widespread rejection of Romantic subjectivism and imagination in favor of Realism - the accurate and apparently objective description of the ordinary, observable world, especially evident in painting.
Andreas Achenbach (German, 1815 - 1910), Jules Bastien-Lepage (French, 1848-1884), Joseph Bail (French, 1862 - 1921)


Impressionism (1860-1900)

Impressionism was a 19th-century art movement that began as a loose association of Paris-based artists exhibiting their art publicly in the 1860s. Characteristics of Impressionist painting include visible brush strokes, open composition, emphasis on light in its changing qualities (often accentuating the effects of the passage of time), ordinary subject matter, the inclusion of movement as a crucial element of human perception and experience, and unusual visual angles.
Albert Bierstadt (German-American, 1830 - 1902), Alexandre Cabanel (French, 1823-1889), William Bouguereau (French, 1825-1905)


Symbolism (1880 - 1895)

Symbolism originated in France, and was part of a 19th-century movement in which art became infused with mysticism. French Symbolism was both a continuation of the Romantic tradition and a reaction to the realistic approach of impressionism. It served as a catalyst in the outgrowth of the darker sides of Romanticism and toward abstraction.
John White Alexander (American, 1856 - 1915), Mikhail Vrubel (Russia, 1856-1910)


Victorian (1837 - 1901)

The second half of the 19th century has been called the positivist age and one of the most fascinating periods in our history. It has been an age of faith in the positive consequences of what can be achieved through the close observation of the natural and human realms. The spirit of 19th century England could be personified through Queen Victoria and it is known as the Victorian era. It is covering the eclectic period of 64-year reign of Queen Victoria 1837 to 1901.
John Ruskin (1819–1900)
Writer, art critic, draughtsman, watercolourist, social thinker, philanthropist



Victorian art was produced by a series of artists who were mainly focused on the popularity of England's high-fashion and modern elegance, which was inspired by the British Empire's growth during the era. This popularity and the elegant artwork which depicted it rendered England to be considered by the world at large a picture of modernity, finery and and elegant etiquette. As a result, Victorian art often portrayed exciting and high-class events in bold colors to express the emotional energy of the situation in the paintings.


Art styles varied somewhat during the Victorian art period because of the huge advances made in photographic and architectural technology during the reign of Queen Victoria. Both architecture and visual arts showed changes in form and decorum as a result of the changing viewpoint on aesthetics, which was caused by the developing technologies.


In addition to popular high-class social events, many paintings during the Victorian era were of the countryside of England. The countryside was the point of view for most of the common people of England, and the emotional tendencies of the painting styles of the Victorian era also made appearances in the art that became popular in the rural areas. The pictures of the English countryside depicted emotional renditions of the work fields and gave brilliant color representation to the common garments of the working class.

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The art collections contained herein have been taken from my University text books, Libraries, and internet sources. There may be a possibility some pieces have been named incorrectly; i.e. credited to incorrect painter. Please allow for human error and if you would like, you may contact me with corrections. Webmaster.

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