Collectors of antique paintings are conservative in their leanings. Italian Renaissance masters, old Dutch and German painters, French Impressionists and some others attract the most interest. At the same time, artists from other countries and eras are often no less deserving of attention. Let us stop our look at the paintings of England.


Few people would call English painting one of the country's assets, and in vain. Among the artists of England, many of the most interesting original masters whose works decorate the best art galleries in the world and the richest private collections of art objects.


But in wide circles of art lovers England is undeservedly relegated to second place. Not everyone can name at least three English painters without a hitch. We will try to correct this injustice by offering a brief overview of ancient English painting since its formation into a separate, independent phenomenon of world art.


The work of William Hogarth (1697-1764) was a real breakthrough in the visual arts which removed the 'eternal student' stigma from the English.

He opened the "golden" XVIII century of English painting. It was an innovator and realist in every way. He painted sailors, beggars, his own servants, women of easy virtue. His single canvases or cycles are sometimes sharply satirical, sometimes deeply sad, but always very lively and realistic. And the light cheerfulness of 'Girl with Shrimp' (1745) just makes you smile in return. This portrait is unanimously regarded by amateurs and critics alike as one of the most interesting and lively portraits of the era.


THE ORIGINS OF ENGLISH PAINTING. Before the seventeenth century one could only speak conventionally about English painting. Miniatures or frescoes were present, but against the background of the Italian or Dutch schools the English looked pale. Painting was not encouraged in the country - the strict and stern Puritans who dominated the ideological sphere did not welcome any "decoration". Unsurprisingly, the authors of the first English paintings were not Englishmen. Start the history of English painting should be with the works of the great Dutchmen Rubens and Van Dyck, who gave a powerful impetus to the development of English visual arts. But while Rubens' execution of the paintings for Whitehall Palace in 1629 was essentially just a brilliant addition to the artist's career as a diplomat (he was head of the Spanish King's embassy to negotiate with Charles I of England), Antonis van Dyck was Charles' court painter, was granted nobility and buried in London's famous St Paul's Cathedral.

Van Dyck and the Dutchmen who came to England after him, Cornelis Ketel, Daniel Mitens, the Germans von der Faes (Peter Lely) and Gottfried Kniller (Sir Godfrey Neller, a favourite of Cromwell) were portrait painters. Their paintings are distinguished by their brilliant skill and subtlety of psychological observation. Their services were highly regarded. They were all granted nobility and Neller is even buried in Westminster Abbey. The dominant genre of English painting was the ceremonial portrait. Historical and mythological subjects occupied a secondary place, and landscape painters were few. The English in the seventeenth century were forced to cede first roles to brilliant foreigners. But even among them there were original masters. William Dobson (1610-1646), for example, began by copying paintings by Titian and Van Dyck, but now the Scottish lords proudly display ancient paintings in their castles, many of them portraits of their ancestors by Dobson.