Up to the industrial revolution there was virtually no real "British" art as distinct from that of the rest of Europe. Continental influences and immigrants from more far-flung countries determined the tastes and colours of Great Britain. But from 1750 onwards, when the first so-called modern society was opening up, a clearly British tradition began to assert itself. A new class of entrepreneurs and merchants gave their support and commissioned innovative young artists. But in fact what is so typically British about this British art? In order to try and understand it, British Vision concentrates on two essential characteristics, which encapsulate the originality of British art: a sharp sense of observation and a penchant for the visionary. Hogarth and Constable for example constantly surprise the onlooker with the keenness of their observation of reality. The visionary and the imaginary are found in artists like Blake and Bacon. As for the work of Turner and Spencer, it forms the synthesis of these two opposing visions.
The countryside, the portrait and the "conversation piece", satire and pre-raphaelite art with its social undertones, the typical art of the First and Second World Wars ...all these themes are touched on with more than 300 pictures, sculptures, drawings, engravings and photographs, all of exceptional quality.