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British arts The historical context of the arts

The United Kingdom has a long history of excellence in the arts. We all know that British contributions to literature are remarkable in their richness, variety and consistency. For many many centuries in Britain as in many other countries art and music were domain of the nobility. The nobility patronized the arts and set the tone and style from early modern times to the Victorian Era.

Britain’s artistic output was focused on literature in the 16th-17th centuries. Later the country came to Renaissance influences in art. This influence had been prevalent on the continent since the 15th century. The Baroque epoch came after the Renaissance, and in many Catholic countries during 17-18 centuries this style became very popular. In this aspect Britain was some kind of exception, because at that time it was not entirely Catholic country, it became and still remained Protestant country. Thus it didn’t experience the flavour of Baroque era such as many other countries did.

English style during the 18th century was more influenced by Greeks and Romans. In the 19th century a movement called Romanticism sought to make art more emotional. Exotic places, the beauty of nature, the fascination for the Middle Ages were the themes of the Romanticism.

During the Victorian Era (40s-50s of the 19th century) Britain became urban, industrialized society. This means that vast middle class developed. More people had the time, education, chance, inclination to appreciate the arts. A close relationship between this large audience and the creators of art and literature was established, because authors wrote about and painters depicted characters, situations and scenes either familiar or interesting to large number of middle-class people.

Some of the works created at that time seemed rather ordinary, but others were not. In the 20th century of the tendency to get money increased and it was particularly essential after WWII. Here we speak about popular music and film industry, which now had the widest audiences, but classical music and literature still attracted significant numbers of people, and in the post-war era there was serious music compositions by modern composers (Cornelius Cardew, Peter Maxwell Davies, Harrison Birtwistle). Works of modern sculpture gained more and more audience. In this connection Sir Jacob Epstein was rather famous throughout Britain. He’s famous for his modern mystic sculpture, and his works received acceptance and appreciation.

Funding arts

The matter is that Britain’s government provides substantial public funding for the arts. The Minister for the Arts in fact is not the member of the Cabinet, but has his ministry. There’s also an Arts Council, which receives a grant from the government. In the 1990s it was 194 mln pounds a year. Such Arts Councils exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Local authority work in close relation with Arts Councils and also supply funds to them. Opera, dance, drama companies, a lot of experimental groups, etc. all count on public financial assistance. Another source of funds is the national lottery, which was begun in 1994, about 1/5 of is earning goes to the arts. Many artists still seek support from the private sector.

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