British Art in the USA

British artists have always found inspiration from their journeys abroad. But with so much British art now permanently overseas, a trip abroad can provide a great opportunity to see some of Britain?s greatest works. The USA has an astonishing array of British art and artefacts, acquired for their intrinsic Englishness.

The collections in American galleries thus tend to focus on seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century portraiture, landscape and sporting paintings. But the USA is also fascinated by modern British Art. Works by David Hockney, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore have been popular acquisitions within the last few decades and several collections now include works by Rachel Whiteread and Tracey Emin.

British art can be purchased from galleries throughout America but the Affordable Art Fair (AAF) is a great place to find works under $5,000. Following its success in London, the Affordable Art Fair debuts in New York this year with more than 60 galleries exhibiting paintings, drawings, sculptures and limited edition prints. Approximately a quarter of the exhibitors are from Europe, Canada and South America.

Affordable Art Fair

Metropolitan Pavilion

125 West 18th Street

New York City

June 14 until June 17, 2007

The Yale Centre for British Art

1080 Chapel Street PO Box 208280

New Haven? Connecticut

+1 203 432 2800

With approximately 1,900 paintings and 100 sculptures in this impressive collection, the Yale collection is the largest British art collection in the USA. Designed to narrate the story of British art, life, and culture since the end of the Middle Ages, the collection is particularly strong in the period from the birth of William Hogarth (1697) to the death of J. M. W. Turner (1851), reflecting the tastes and interests of its founder, the late Paul Mellon.

The Yale collection ranges from a late-fifteenth-century Nottingham alabaster to paintings and sculpture by twentieth-century artists such as Stanley Spencer, Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, and, most recently, Rachel Whiteread and Damien Hirst. William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, George Stubbs, Joseph Wright of Derby, John Constable, and J. M. W. Turner are also well represented.

But the Yale Centre takes the story of British art one step further; it also includes works commissioned by British patrons by figures such as Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck who were both court painters for Charles I.

The Centre’s large collection of British portraits contains grand full-length paintings by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Reynolds, and Thomas Lawrence but the real character of this collection comes from portraits of a less imposing type, known as conversation pieces. Small-scale paintings of family groups became increasingly popular in the second and third quarters of the 18th century and reflect the fashion for more intimate, small-scale domestic interiors depicted by Dutch artists.

Equally stunning is Yale’s rich array of British landscape paintings. From meticulously drafted bird’s-eye views of country estates in the period of the Restoration, through spectacular visions of the English countryside by Claude, to modern views of the Cornish coastline, the collection offers a provocative account of the evolution in Britain of ideas, dreams, and debates about town and country, agriculture, blood stock, rural labour, and the natural world. Of particular note are works by the greatest British landscape painters of the eighteenth century, Thomas Gainsborough and Richard Wilson, and by their nineteenth-century counterparts, John Constable and J. M. W. Turner.

British sporting and animal paintings were close to Mr. Mellon’s heart and the Yale Centre has one of the best collections in the world, including a number of paintings by George Stubbs. Foxhunting, horseracing, and other equestrian scenes by John Wootton, James Seymour, Sawrey Gilpin, James Ward, Jean-Laurent Agasse, Benjamin Marshall, John Ferneley, and Alfred Munnings also feature in the collection.

Marine painting (in particularly the works of Samuel Scott and Charles Brooking), the London cityscape; artists’ self-portraits (from Godfrey Kneller to Vanessa Bell); the work of travel artists and scenes from the plays of Shakespeare. The Centre also holds spectacular examples of twentieth-century sculpture, including works by Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, and distinguished contemporary artists such as Damien Hirst and Rachel Whiteread.

Other places to see British Art:

The Frick Collection

1 East 70th Street

New York, NY 10021

Phone: 212-288-0700

A selection of 32 British landscapes and cityscapes by artists such as Constable, Turner, Hogarth and Reynolds.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street

New York, New York 10028-0198

General Information: 212-535-7710

TTY: 212-570-3828 or 212-650-2551

Constable’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Bishop’s Grounds (1825) is definitely worth seeing as is Turner’s Bequest of Cornelius Vanderbilt (1899).

Philadelphia Museum of Art

26th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Philadelphia, PA 19130

+1 215 684 7832

A particularly good collection of Constables and a superbly decorated English drawing room by Robert Adam.

J.Paul Getty Museum

1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1000

Los Angeles, CA 90049-1687

+1 310 440 7300

William Blake’s Satan Exulting (1795) is a particularly striking example of romanticism. Turner’s Van Tromp, Going About to Please His Masters (1844) and Gainsborough’s Portrait of Anne, Countess of Chesterfield (1777 – 1778) are also not to be missed.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

1071 5th Avenue

New York NY

+1 212 423 3500

The 1993 Turner Prize Winner Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (Apartment) and Untitled (Basement), both executed in 2001 are particularly impressive. Also look out for Francis Bacon’s Studies for Crucifixion (1962) and Henry Moore’s Three Standing Figures (1953).