Political cartoons, maps, landscape paintings and portraits were popular in the 18th century. Some famous 18th century painters include Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and John Singleton Copley.Continue Reading
The 18th century is known as the Age of Enlightenment; humanist interest in science, political thought and art characterize this period. Eighteenth-century art also reflects the themes of political unrest, colonization and empire. Portrait artists depicted the wealthy and powerful within this particular historical moment. Joshua Reynolds, an important portrait artist, painted Lord Heathfield during the Great Siege of Gibraltar in 1787. John Trumbull's painting "The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, 17 June, 1775" depicts a tragic moment during the American Revolution.
Broadsheets or broadsides, the earliest newspapers, emerged in the 18th century. They contained political cartoons that caricatured the wealthy and powerful, often commenting on political affairs. Isaac Cruikshank criticized French Revolutionaries in his etching "The Radical's Arms." He also attacked the British slave trade in the 1792 cartoon "The Abolition of the Slave Trade," which depicted the murder of a slave girl.
Neoclassicism, or a renewed interest in themes from the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, strongly influenced art in the second half of the century. Harmony, balance and simplicity are some features of neoclassical art. Stories from the ancient world provided topics for neoclassical painters. Jacques-Louis David's "Oath of the Horatii" is a famous 18th-century neoclassical painting based on a Roman legend. David's painting focuses on three powerful warriors accepting swords from their father. The painting honors the ideas of duty and courage.Learn more about Art & Literature