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Painting in Eighteenth-Century Britain - HOA00081I

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  • Department: History of Art
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Richard Johns
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25
    • See module specification for other years: 2023-24

Module summary

This module examines the making, display and reception of painting in Britain during the eighteenth century.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

This module explores the making, display and reception of painting in Britain during the eighteenth century. We begin by considering the different ways in which the history of painting has been written about (beginning with one of the very first attempts to articulate the idea of an English School of painting). By uncovering the international origins and cosmopolitan aspirations of painting in eighteenth-century Britain (apparent in the work of William Hogarth and Canaletto, for example), we alight on a recurring theme of the module: what does it mean to define the art of the period as British?

We go on to investigate the emergence of a dominant exhibition culture in Britain during the 1760s and 1770s - decades in which the politics of art became more visible than ever before under the spotlight of the Royal Academy. We will examine the impact of the Academy on the work and reputation of those artists who associated with it, including Angelica Kauffman and Joshua Reynolds, before foregrounding painters who operated with considerable success outside of its purview, including Joseph Wright and George Stubbs.

While our primary focus will be on works of art made and seen in Britain (more often than not, in London), we consider at every turn how the choices that artists made - including the people, places and things they depicted - found meaning within a global system of imperial capitalism, violent exploitation and profit.

Module learning outcomes

  • An informed knowledge of painters who helped to shape the art world of eighteenth-century Britain.

  • The skills to engage critically and constructively with the evolving historiography of British art.

  • An understanding of the correlation of art and empire in eighteenth-century Britain.

  • An understanding of the relationship between art theory and practice in the period.

  • A command of key digital resources developed for eighteenth-century studies.


Task Length % of module mark
Intermediate Assignment
N/A 100

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
Intermediate Assignment
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on assessed work within the timeframes set out by the University - please check the Guide to Assessment, Standards, Marking and Feedback for more information.

The purpose of feedback is to help you to improve your future work. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further, you are warmly encouraged to meet your Supervisor during their Office Hours.

Indicative reading

  • Arnold, Dana, and David Peters Corbett, eds. A Companion to British Art 1600 to the Present. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
  • Bindman, David, ed. The History of British Art 1600-1870. London: Tate, 2008.
  • Chadwick, Esther, Meredith Gamer and Cyra Levenson. Slavery and portraiture in eighteenth-century Atlantic Britain. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2014.
  • Hallett, Mark, and Christine Riding, eds. Hogarth. London: Tate, 2006. Exhibition catalog.
  • Insley, Alice, and Martin Myrone, eds. Hogarth and Europe. London: Tate, 2021. Exhibition catalog.
  • Johns, Richard, et al. "There’s No such Thing as British Art." British Art Studies 1 (2015): 11-62.
  • Postle, Martin, ed. Joshua Reynolds: the Creation of Celebrity. London: Tate, 2005. Exhibition catalog.
  • Quilley, Geoff, Tim Barringer and Douglas Fordham, eds. Art and the British Empire. Manchester, 2009.
  • Retford, Kate. The Conversation Piece: making modern art in eighteenth-century Britain. New Haven: Yale University Press 2017.
  • Reynolds, Joshua. Discourses on Art. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.
  • Solkin, David H. Art on the Line: The Royal Academy Exhibitions at Somerset House, 1780-1836. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.
  • Solkin, David H. Art in Britain 1660–1815. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.