Art and literature

Read the Trusted Source articles about art, music and literature...

Maiolica plate painted by Francesco Xanto Avelli showing Pyramus and Thisbe Made in Urbino, Italy, 1534.

What are maiolica and majolica? 

Maiolica and majolica are names used for different types of ceramics produced from the late-medieval period onwards. The names are sometimes used interchangeably which can lead to confusion.

‘Love Among the Ruins’ by Burne-Jones displayed in the Great Parlour, Wightwick Manor

Who were the Pre-Raphaelites? 

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was a nineteenth century art movement founded in 1848 by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and several of their friends.

Detail of Leicester wallpaper by J H Dearle from Morris & Co

Who was William Morris? 

Born in Walthamstow in March 1834, William Morris founded the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and designed some of the most recognisable textile patterns of the nineteenth century.

Bust of Virginia Woolf by Stephen Tomlin in the garden at Monk's House

Who was Virginia Woolf? 

Virginia Woolf was an innovative modern novelist, essayist, literary critic, and central member of the Bloomsbury group.

Oil painting on canvas, Victoria (Vita) Mary Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson (1892-1962) by Philip Alexius de László de Lombos

Who was Vita Sackville-West? 

Victoria (Vita) Mary Sackville-West was a prolific fiction writer, prize-winning poet, and gardener.

Crowds gather to sing carols at Fountains Abbey

Why do we sing Christmas carols? 

Christmas carols are at the very heart of seasonal tradition. But many of the texts, tunes, and conventions of today’s Christmas carols are younger than you might think...

Petworth House from the Lake: Dewy Morning, painting by JMW Turner, c. 1810

What is Romanticism? 

Romanticism was an artistic and intellectual movement which took place in Europe between the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries.

A River Landscape with Jacob and Laban and his Daughters, by Claude Lorrain, 1654

What is the picturesque?  

The picturesque is an aesthetic category developed in the eighteenth-century. It was associated with fashionable landscape gardening, however its cultural significance extended far beyond this.

The ring said to have inspired Tolkien at The Vyne, Hampshire

Where can you experience Tolkien’s Middle-earth? 

Middle-earth is the imaginary world created by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) as the setting for his novels, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.

Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard

The image of power? Queen Elizabeth I and the 'Mask of Youth' 

The ‘Mask of Youth’ is a term given to the portraits and miniatures of Queen Elizabeth I which adopted a standardised image of ageless beauty.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772 - 1834). Photograph of a portrait by Peter Vandyke, 1795

Who was Samuel Taylor Coleridge? 

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was one of the great Romantic poets. He was a writer of visionary imagination, lyric intensity and philosophical profundity.

Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire

What happened in a medieval abbey church? 

Before the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the late 1530s, hundreds of monasteries and nunneries were founded across Great Britain. The Rule of St Benedict set out guidelines for their life, including the daily routine of prayer for both the living and dead.

Trees at Packwood House, Warwickshire

Where was Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden?  

Forests are traditionally considered to be places of magic and mischief, of outlaws and intrigue, and nowhere can this be more clearly seen than in Shakespeare’s work.

Tennyson Down above Freshwater Cliffs on the Isle of Wight

Who was Alfred, Lord Tennyson? 

Born in 1809, Alfred Tennyson’s poetic career spans much of the nineteenth century. After his death in 1892, he left a literary legacy which includes many of the most popular nineteenth century poems.

The pale green sitting room at Monk's House

What was the Bloomsbury group? 

The Bloomsbury group was a circle of artists, writers and intellectuals who embraced a culture of sexual equality and freedom, informality and fierce intellectual debate, largely at odds with their strict Victorian upbringings.

Sunset looking north from Devil's Dyke, South Downs, West Sussex

How has the South Downs landscape influenced musicians? 

The landscape of Sussex and the South Downs has long been celebrated as an inspiration for literature and visual art. Its significance as a site of musical creativity, however, is no less remarkable.

The view across the garden to Hardy's Cottage, the birthplace in 1840 of novelist and poet Thomas Hardy

Where is Thomas Hardy's Wessex? 

Thomas Hardy is famous for his novels of nineteenth century rural life. Rich in description and dialect, they are written museums of a vanished culture. Hardy set them in Wessex, an imaginary region mapped onto the geography of south and south-west England.

Barras Nose headland, Tintagel, North Cornwall

Who was King Arthur? 

Historians and archaeologists fiercely debate the possibility of a ‘real’ King Arthur.

A handcrafted replica of the Sutton Hoo helmet

What are the Beasts of Battle? 

‘Beasts of Battle’ is a recurring image in Old English (Anglo-Saxon) and Old Norse (Viking) poetry. The three beasts are the raven, the eagle, and the wolf, who feast on the bodies of the slain.

Detail of an early fourteenth century Italo-Byzantine triptych

How did Byzantium influence the British Isles? 

The Byzantine Empire was a strong power for more than 1000 years. Its influence was felt across the world, including the British Isles.

A painting by James Archer at Carlyles House

Who was Thomas Carlyle? 

When Thomas Carlyle turned eighty in 1875, he received a birthday tribute from over one hundred eminent Victorians. Philosopher, historian, biographer, translator, novelist and essayist, he was hailed as the voice of the age.

South side of red bricked baroque hall

What does ‘baroque’ mean? 

Originating in Rome, the baroque was a cultural movement in Europe throughout the seventeenth century. Baroque style can be seen across many forms of art including painting, sculpture, architecture, music, literature and theatre.

Hercules in the gardens at Powis Castle, Wales

Who were the Classical heroes? 

In Classical mythology, heroes were often the descendants of gods. The Italian Renaissance rediscovered the artistic appeal of such mythological figures, and this movement widely influenced British art and architecture from the sixteenth century onwards.

The Black Beacon on Orford Ness

What is queer ecology? 

Although it remains a derogatory term in some contexts, the word ‘queer’ has acquired two more positive senses.

 Mount Vesuvius by Moonlight (The Eruption of 1787) by Giovanni Battista Lusieri (c.1755  1821)

Why is Mount Vesuvius so famous? 

Mount Vesuvius forms an iconic backdrop to the Bay of Naples, Italy, and is one of Europe’s most active volcanoes. It is best known for an eruption in AD 79 that buried the Roman settlements of Pompeii and Herculaneum under metres of ash.