At the height of the Napoleonic Wars, a new generation of painters led by the precociously talented David Wilkie took London's art world by storm. Their novel approach to the depiction of everyday life marked the beginning a trajectory that links the art of the Age of Revolution with the postmodern culture of today.
What emerged from the imagery of Wilkie and other early 19th-century British genre painters—among them William Mulready, Edward Bird, and the controversial watercolorist Thomas Heaphy—was a sense that common people were increasingly bound up with the exceptional events of history, that traditional boundaries between country and city were melting away, and that a more regularized and dynamic present was everywhere encroaching upon the customary patterns of the past.
About the author
Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art