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British culture and arts in the 20th century


By the end of the nineteenth century Great Britain was abandoning the aims of peace and retrenchment proclaimed by the Liberals. Foreign affairs were deeply affected by the coming of imperialism. As the world was divided up amongst imperialist powers, the newer powers, rapidly coming into the first rank of capitalist states, found themselves left behind in the race for colonies. Their only hope was to win colonies in a war for the redistribution of existing empires. As the danger of these policies became apparent to Britain and France, they drew closer together and ended their traditional rivalry.

Britain now set out to build the 'Entente', or alliance with France, extended to include Japan in 1902 and Russia in 1907. This alliance was ranged against the Tripple Alliance of Germany, Austria and Italy. The prospect of wars now affecting empires stretched across the world. Through the era of imperialism feelings of extreme patriotism and jingoism were fostered.

In literature this period saw a flood of stories of romantic adventure, often set in India or Africa, which appealed to thousands of readers because of their contrast to the drab routine life of factory workers and the new suburban population of clerks and other black-coated workers. R. L. Stevenson wrote Treasure Island in 1883, and King Solomon's Mines written by Rider Haggard in 1886 gave a stirring picture of central Africa. W. E. Henley and Joseph Conrad wrote of adventures on the high seas. But the most popular of these writers was Rudyard Kipling (18651936), novelist, poet and author of fascinating tales for children, The Jungle Book (1894). His poem Mandalay, describing the romantic east as recalled by an ex-soldier, became a very popular song. There is much attraction in R. Kipling's vivid descriptions and his brave and daring heroes, as well as in his boldness in revealing the dark and cruel sides of life, or in contrasting the natural simplicity of the natives to the insincerity and affectation of the colonizers. Yet he was a universally recognized bard of the British Empire, who delighted in describing Britain's victories in colonial warfare. He firmly believed in the wisdom of English rule in newly conquered lands and called upon his compatriots to do their bit for their country. R. Kipling, no less than W. E. Henley, voiced the ideas of British imperialism, with its philosophy of 'the right of the strong' and its frank apology of militarism. One of R. Kipling's poems, Big Steamers, was a direct appeal for a big navy to protect Britain's far-flung trade routes.

R. Kipling was the first English writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature (1907)/'

At the same time other writers offered escape from the unattractiveness of everyday life in other directions. Conan Doyle began his immortal series of Sherlock Holmes stories in the nineties, endowing the foggy bleakness of Baker Street, London, with a romantic glow. G. K. Chesterton wrote a series of detective stories with an unobtrusive Catholic priest as the unlikely unraveller of the mysteries.

A glimpse of the wonders that science might bring in the future as well as some of the dangers were expressed in the novels of Herbert George Wells (1866-1946), The Invisible Man (1897), The War of the Worlds (1898) and The First Men in the Moon (1901).\ As a critical realist he thought the scientifictechnological revolution was incompatible with the dominant role of a parasitic class, though his plans, both social and political, were Utopian. His various concepts of world reconstruction and the vagueness of his ideal are typical of a democratic-minded intellectual who was far from the working-class struggle. \ More consistent in their criticism were the critical realists of the twentieth century. George Bernard Shaw (1856 1950) turned to be the leading figure among them. Unlike Dickens and Thackeray who had only a vague idea of the future, Shaw deeply analysed the social essence of that system as such, not only its moral and ethical problems. He gave his idea of the future where private ownership of the means of production, distribution of goods and exchange should be abolished. However, ideologically he was limited by his devotion to reforms, and in some of his works not always consistent.

Another critical realist of the period was John Galsworthy who did much to expose the top layers of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois intellectuals.

John Galsworthy (1867 1933) grew up in a rich family, studying at Harrow, a select secondary school, and Oxford, a select university. It was in fact in his very family that Galsworthy found the prototypes of the Forsytes, who are so skilfully depicted in The Man of Property, the first novel of the cycle known as The Forsyte Saga (1922). As he himself pointed out, his indignation and protest against the realities of the time to which he was subjected at home, at school and at the university were at the root of the attitudes and thoughts expressed in his best works produced in the first decade of the 20th century, such as The Island Pharisees (1904), The Man of Property, The Silver Box (1906) and others. Their main characters live according to the law of ownership which is a basis of the social system of Great Britain.

The horrors of World War I wjere a bad shock to the young writers. The injustice and unreasonableness dftfie slaughter demonstrated the false, lying nature of the bourgeois slogan&ssiid pretences. A radical revaluation of values was the result, and the 'lost generation's' disappointment led them to assume a distorted vision of the world. Being unable to see the real causes of the war, the clashing greeds of imperialist countries, their competition in enrichment, they put the blame on the development of technology, and on the inborn, incorrigible depravity and viciousness of man. What they wanted was to escape every contact with social life, to retreat to one's private world. Life in all its complexity and fullness and vigour no longer occupied them.

This period is marked by the appearance of various literary schools, modernistic, psychological and others, headed by T. S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, James Joyce. T. S. Eliot (18881965) did not always 'escape' from reality since his position as leader of ideological reaction did not allow it. He seemed to be looking for ways to save his class and its peculiar civilization. Catholicism was seen by him as one of such ways, for it might help to curb the disobedient masses. In his Ulysses (1922) James Joyce (1882 1941) discrowns the man whose thoughts and actions are deliberately shown as ugly and petty. Such qualities as the triviality, hypocrisy, philistine imitation of feelings and thoughts do not look as socially determined phenomena but produce the impression of age-old traits inherent in man.

W. Somerset Maugham (18741965) in the course of his long life wrote a vast number of works, novels, plays, short stories^ Many of his works written at the turn of the century are of critical and realistic character. A doctor by profession he made good use of his professional observations. In Liza of Lambeth (1897), his first novel, fie described the life of the London slums.

All his best novels Maugham devoted to the people of arts. Such are Of Human Bondage, which came out in 1915 and where the author himself is the main character concealed under a pseudonym, The Moon and Sixpence (1919), CakesandAle, (1930), Theatre (1937). Among his best plays are The Circle (1921), The Constant Wife (1926), The Breadwinner (1930) in which he portrayed the force of circumstances, the way of life and social conditions, as well as the scantiness of the characters and their prototypes.

Having started from certain classical positions of English realism, D. H. Lawrence (1885 1930) was led by his tendency to treat social relations and contradictions as secondary, concentrating on sex treated as the pivot of one's inner world (The White Peacock, Sons and Lovers (1913), The Rainbow (1915)), though in his last novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), post-World War I England was shown realistically with its social contradictions, the appalling poverty of the miners.

In the 1930s the 'escapism' was no longer popular among the best English writers, there was a notable shift to the left. New names adhering to critical realism appeared. Richard Aldington (18921962) in one of his best works, Death of a Hero, branded imperialistic wars. John B. Priestley (18941984) made a substantial contribution by The Good Companions, The Angel Pavement, Dangerous Corner. A. J. Cronin (1896 1981) in his Hatter's Castle showed a gloomy picture of family tyranny, the decay of family ties under the despotic influence of a person combining bourgeois smugness with aristocratic pretences. Social conflicts were demonstrated in his works The Stars Look Down and The Citadel. In the 1940s, however, Cronin deviated from the pressing questions of his time.

The 1930s witnessed the work of writers characterized by passionate confidence in the victory of the working people's cause: Ralph Fox (190037), John Cornford (1915 36), Christopher Caudwell (190937). The leader of this constellation of courageous humanists was Ralph Fox. In the late 1930s he wrote and warned the world about the menace of fascism.

This period is marked by a number of significant historical works by progressive English authors, which were devoted to the key periods of the class struggle in the history of Britain. The novels by Jack Lindsay (1900) may be singled out for their revolutionary nature and the understanding of the people's role in history (1649. A. Novel of the Year, Men of '48). His epic work The British Way, reveals the revolutionized consciousness of the people and the degradation of the bourgeoisie, its inevitable shift to reaction in post-World War II Britain.

One of the great masters of modern English prose is James Aldridge (1918). As a writer he commenced in the years of World War II. His first novel Signed with their Honour (1942) is devoted to the heroic struggle of the Greek people against the Italian and German fascist troops. In the postwar period he turned to the burning problems of the day, creating uncompromising characters who started their active struggle for peace, against reaction both at home and abroad, especially in The Diplomat and other works.

In the 1950s a so-called literary revolution took place. A new kind of literature burst upon the scene. The writers of this new literature Kingsley Amis, John Wain, John Braine, Alan Sillitoe and others became known as the 'angry young men'. They came from working-class and lower middle-class backgrounds. They wrote about the ugly and sordid reality of life as they knew it, and they wrote angrily. Their novels and plays were not written in literary or intellectual language, but in the ordinary and sometimes ugly language of daily life. The scene was often set in the dark back rooms and kitchens of northern industrial cities. The main characters were not usually men and women with ideas and ideals. More often they were bitter and weak, defeated by the dramas and miseries of everyday life.( The authors revealed in their works {Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe, Look Back in Anger by John Osborne, The Day of the Sardine by Sid Chaplin and a few others) their disgust and hatred of philistine existence and conformism in its various guises.) It is remarkable, that the manner of writing of the 'angry' is realistic, they do not follow the decadents. They continue the traditions of critical realism.

The home and international position of Great Britain in the 1950s brought to important changes in English literature. Two trends continued to develop progressive and reactionary. Most significant representatives of critical realism of the time are Graham Greene (1904), Norman Lewis (1908), Basil Davidson (1914), Desmond Stewart (1924). These progressive authors are united by the common interest in preserving peace and the hatred for war. The novels by G. Greene The Quiet American, The Comedians, The Honorary Consul, The Human Factor and others are closely connected not only with moral problems but also with the most critical political events in the hotbeds of the globe. Of antiimperialist, anti-colonialist character are the novels by N. Lewis Volcanoes Above Us, The Sicilian Specialist, A Passage to Freedom), by D. Stewart (Sequence of Roles, and others).

The ugliness and meanness of life remains a favourite subject for novels and stage plays, as well as for films and television plays. The writers of today are interested in the small details of life. Most modern writers are observers rather than commentators. Their philosophic and aesthetic searchings took them closer to modernistic trends to a certain extent succumbed to the influence of existentialism, though some writers, among them Iris Murdoch, William Golding, Lawrence Durrell, Muriel Spark, Colin Wilson, Angus Wilson, do more than observe. The constant recurrence in modern English literature of the problem of alienation is a proof, a reflection of modern bourgeois society, its ideology and culture.


The roots of modern English drama stretch back into the past, and often the process of its development is plain enough to trace. The widespread dramatization of fiction in the twentieth century is yet another link with literary tradition. There have been dramas based on the life and work of the Brontes, such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, on the Brownings (The Barrets of Wimpole Street), on Jane Austen (Pride and Prejudice and Emma), on Gaskell's Cranford and Trollope's Barchester Towers, and on Russian novels, such as War and Peace and Crime and Punishment, all testifying to the strong literary interests of the English playgoing public. Nevertheless the English stage of the twentieth century has produced on the whole theatrical rather than literary drama. One of the best qualities of the serious English drama during the twentieth century has been its tenacity, its ability to survive in small repertory theatres and converted parish halls, in private groups and diminutive London playhouses, while the West End has been increasingly given over to lavish amusement and after-dinner comedy, where commercialism has exercised a very strong influence.

It was Bernard Shaw who lifted the realistic drama to its highest potentiality, by making it primarily intellectual drama, the intellectual brilliancy of which is ultimately enjoyable. His plays are conspicuous for abundantly witty dialogue. Bernard Shaw's first play Widower's Houses was an exposure of respectableshameful slum landlordism. After a startling success of his plays at the Independent Theatre and subsequently at the Court Theatre B. Shaw was acclaimed the leading figure of the 'new movement' in Britain. Among his most important plays are Mrs Warren's Profession, Candida, The Devil's Disciple, Caesar and Cleopatra, Major Barbara, Man and Superman, The Apple Cart, Pygmalion, Heartsbreak House. Being a sworn enemy of 'art for art's sake' he used the stage to denounce the injustice of capitalism and to preach his Fabian ideas of which he was an apologist. In his plays he laid bare the vices of capitalist society, severely criticizing its glaring injustice and exposing its inhumanity.

John Galsworthy, who enjoyed the widest vogue at the time, w.as another flare-up. His utterly serious and emotional plays, such as The Silver Box, Strife, Justice, Loyalties and Escape, were the best of their kind and gave the most complete picture of English bourgeois society in the twentieth century.

Among other eminent playwrights of the period were Sean O'Casey, distinguished for realistic studies of life, Lord Dunsany, also Irish, producing poetic and fantastic short plays. The point of interest is that English literature owed much to the great Irishmen: Wilde, Shaw, Yeats, Synge whose plays were staged by leading theatres at home and abroad.

The 1930s saw a new upheaval of democratic culture in Great Britain, its main feature being the mass character and vigorous protest against war, fascism and reaction in ideology. The working class theatre was at its height. They had their own theatre and drama groups, the Unity Theatre in London and Theatre Workshop in the East End being the most famous.

A tremendous success in the 1930s was the new literary club known a& The Left Book Club. By the end of 1937 its membership grew to 50,000 people. The Club had theatrical, cinema, and musical societies which attracted talented musicians, singers and actors. It was in close touch with the Unity Theatre, the first professional working class theatre. The performances of the Unity Theatre were distinguished for their true realistic value and high artistic quality. It is remarkable that even in the hardest years of World War II the Unity Theatre never stopped its performances and its popularity grew rapidly. They staged plays by Sean O'Casey, one of which The Star Becomes Red was quite an event in the theatrical life of London.

Centre 42 is the most recent development in the working class theatre. It was founded by Arnold Wesker (b. 1932), a well-known dramatist and was supported by the trade unions. It awakened the interest of the audiences in genuine culture and as a result wide sections of the British intelligentsia, appalled by the rapidly degenerating cultural values, came to appreciate its endeavour.

Of considerable renown among the modern English playwrights are John Osborne, Robert Bolt, David Story, Edmund Bond, Nicholas Simpson and others.

There are two hundred professional companies in Britain today and many good theatres, some new, in provincial cities and towns. There is a festival theatre at Chichegter, Sussex. But London is the theatrical centre. There are thirty theatres in the West End. The National Theatre Company used to perform at the Old Vic and has now moved to the new National Theatre in the South Bank Arts centre. It also tours the provinces. The Royal Shakespeare Company performs in the City's Barbican Centre in London and at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford upon Avon. The Round-house and Royal Court Theatre and Mermaid theatre in London put on modern plays. There is the National Youth Theatre, whose members are all young people. It produces plays at home and abroad during the summer.

Outside London a few large towns have theatres in which are performed, generally for one week at a time, plays, which take a trial run before opening in London, or which have completed periods of being shown in London. The provincial music-hall, or variety theatre, has had a difficult time, and although it has survived longer than the straight drama, it is tending to die.

World-famous for its promenade concerts is Albert Hall in London. It performs from mid-July till mid-September, involving a great variety of orchestras and conductors, both British and foreign. Among first-class orchestras are.BBC .Symphony, London Symphony, London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, New Philharmonia (all based in London), The Halle (Manchester), City of Birmingham Symphony, Bournemouth Symphony, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Scottish National. There are a number of string and chamber orchestras and several chamber music groups of international fame. Choral singing is supposed to be a speciality of the British, and there are successful choral societies in many cities.

There is no 'National Opera House', but the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden receives a grant from the Arts Council, which was established in 1946 to improve knowledge, understanding and practice of the arts. It gives performances throughout the year of opera and ballet. The English National Opera performs operas, sung in English, at the London Coliseum. It also tours the provinces. The standard of performance is high.

One of the most famous ballet companies is The Royal Ballet. The Royal Ballet tours all over the world as well as performing in London and occasionally in other British towns. But provincial residents have weighty ground for complaint about the small amount of financial help given by the Government to artistic enterprise of all sorts outside the capital.

Local enterprise has been responsible for the development in recent years of 'festivals' of the arts in several places, of which the best known is the annual International Festival of Music and Drama in Edinburgh (August to September).

One of the most remarkable of British artistic enterprises is the annual season of opera (May to August), at Glyndebourne, an opera house built in the depths of the country in Sussex, about seventy kilometres south of London. The opera house stands in a beautiful garden. It is a fashionable and very expensive evening.

There are amateur orchestras, quartets, choirs and opera groups even in small county towns. Many schools, too, now have orchestras. The best players are chosen to play in the county youth orchestras, and a few of the very best may be picked for the National Youth Orchestra. This orchestra is trained by distinguished conductors. It plays in the Royal Festival Hall and in other big concert halls.


From about 1930 until very recent times the cinema enjoyed an immense popularity in Britain, and the palatial cinemas built in the 1930s were the most impressive of the buildings to be seen in the streets of many towns. Later, the rapid spread of television brought a great change. The number of cinema-goers has dropped crucially and, as a result, 1,500 cinemas were closed. British success in cinematography became much less conspicuous. Many of the films were mostly imported from America. Some films were shot in Britain and often directed by British directors, but with American money. The British cinematography was not able to provide the cinema houses with films of its own production.

It was only during World War II and after that the British producers began to make their own films on a larger scale. In this way they voiced their protest against Britain's dependence on American cinema tycoons. A glimpse of hope was seen in such productions as Hamlet produced by Laurence Olivier, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist by D. Lynn, and more recently, in Room at the Top, Look Back in Anger, a number of TV plays, serials and documentaries.

But still the great majority of films dominating the British screen are Hollywood production. Britain is pervaded with all sort of American-made thrillers, westerners, spy-films, horror-films, porno-films, and the like which have a pernicious influence on the British youth. The cinema monopolies are little concerned with the ill-effects of such films as long as they bring in profits. Commercial art which can be cheaply mass produced leaves little, if any, room for real art, the latter being not a profitable commodity. Such evil practices impede the young talented film writers, actors and producers in their effort to produce really good films.


In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries English musicians had a great reputation in Europe, both for their talent and for their originality. Today there is a revival of interest in these neglected composers. It was their experiments in keyboard music which helped to form the base from which grew most of the great harpsichord and piano music of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

In the following centuries England produced no composers of world rank except for Henry Purcell in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and Elgar in the twentieth century. The music of Michael Tippett, Benjamin Britten and William Walton is performed all over the world today.

Benjamin Britten (191376) was not regarded to be modern in the musical sense of the word, but he was modern in his attitude towards his public. He composed music, particularly operas and choral works, that can be sung by ordinary people and by children. Some of his operas, such as Noyes Fludde (Noah's Flood) are performed in churches every year, and people from the surrounding countryside sing and act in them. His opera Peter Grimes was warmly received not only in Britain but also outside the country. The festival which Benjamin Britten started in his little home town, Aldeburgh, on the North Sea coast of Suffolk, has become one of the most important musical festivals in Britain.

Benjamin Britten's music, however, is traditional compared with the works of many of the younger generation of composers. The experiments of young composers, like Peter Maxwell Davies, Richard Rodney Bennett and John Tavener are having considerable influence abroad.

Many twentieth-century British composers, includingjtalph Vaughan Williams, Tippett and Britten, have been attracted and influenced by old English folk songs. The resurrection of English national music is closely connected with the name of one of the most popular 20th century composers, R. V. Williams, who began as a folk song enthusiast and enriched the English heritage of folk songs. His opera Hugh the Drover was a great success among the British spectators.

Based on 'special relations', there has always been a close cultural link between Britain and America, not only in literature but also in the popular arts, especially music. Before the Second World War Americans exported jazz and the blues. During the 1950s they exported rock'n'roll, and star singers like Elvis Presley were idolized by some young Britons and Americans alike.

In the early 1960s a new sound was heard, very different from anything which had so far come from the American side of the Atlantic. This was the Liverpool quartet, or 'beat'.

The people responsible for the so-called 'pop revolution' in the West were four Liverpool boys (George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Star, real name Richard Starkey) who joined together in a group and called themselves the Beatles. They played at first in small clubs in the back streets of the city, and wrote their own words and music. They had a close personal relationship with their audience, and they expected them to join in.

Soon the group won the affection of people, because, as they developed, their songs became more serious. They wrote not only of love, but of death and old age, poverty and daily life. They represented the anger and bitterness of youth struggling for freedom against the ruling class, for a better future for themselves. In 19701 the parthership of the Beatles broke up, but their influence continued. When John Lennon was murdered in New York in 1980, he was mourned by millions of his supporters all over the world, not only because of his fame as a Beatle, but because he had dedicatd this fame to the cause of peace.


In the second half of the nineteenth century there existed a number of trends in European continental painting impressionism, expressionism, fauvism, which later, in the twentieth century, gave way to cubism, futurism and surrealism, and eventually to abstractionism. The foundation in 1885 of the New English Art Club and the Glasgow School (about the same time) was the first organized opposition against the banalities of academic painting. \The New English and the Glasgow programmes were return to naturalism and for this direction they were indebted to James Whistler (18341903) as a forerunner and to the impressionist movement across the Channel.

The New English Art Club became the centre of English impressionism,,and from the 1880s until World War I the history of British painting is marked by a slow and rather tentative absorption of impressionist principles of light and colour. Instead of trying to represent nature in its entirety the impressionists selected one element light to be treated as an independent and organic element of style. The leading representatives of the school were Walter Sickert (18601942), Augustus John (18781961), and younger English artists Spencer Gore (1878 1914), Harold Gilman (18761919) and others, who founded the Camden Town Group in 1911. The works of the latter were fine examples of realism in opposition to the fashionable interiors of academic painting. Their subjects included workers, petty bourgeoisie, inhabitants of slums, portraits.

During World War II, when all contacts with continental Europe were severed, there was a notable increase in artistic vitality in Britain. 'Modern' artists were accepted, as they had never been before. Graham Sutherland (1903 80), Paul Nash (1889-1946), Henry Moore (18981986) all did outstanding paintings or drawings, and achieved through their absorption of modern means of expression a dramatic vividness of imagery which rose far above mere documentary illustration. Since the war the development of painting in Britain has been diverse and is therefore difficult of definition. Some British painters have turned to abstraction, not always with too much conviction. Of the geometric abstraction painters Victor Pasmore (1908) and Ben Nicholson (1894) are the most eminent. Younger painters have worked in the expressionist phase of the abstract movement. At the opposite pole in post-war British painting there is a young group of social realists, led by Jack Smith and Edward Middleditch.

Like painting, the British sculpture of the twentieth century is very different from that of the previous century and, too, is greatly influenced by expressionism and surrealism. The new expressionist trend in sculpture is represented by Williams, Butler, Chadwick and Armitage. Among the British sculptors of the period Henry Moore stands out, both in quality and originality. Like other sculptors of his time Moore looked attentively at contemporary painters, in particular at Picasso, but he evolved sculpture that is more independent of contemporary painting than that of any British sculptor and more original. One of the central themes of his preoccupation was the reclining female and the mother and child.

Modern British artists and sculptors, as well as the old masters, both British and foreign, are being kept in the numerous art museums and private art collections.


In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the British colonial aristocracy and rich merchants filled their houses with valuable paintings, sculptures, furniture and ornaments which they brought back from their travels abroad and particularly from the colonies they robbed so mercilessly. So their collections can be seen today in museums, country houses, palaces and castles. There are museums and art galleries in most cities.

The national museums and art galleries in London contain some of the most comprehensive collections of objects of artistic, archeological, scientific, historical and general interest. They are the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Geological Museum, the Natural History Museum. There are national museums and art galleries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In Edinburgh the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland, the Royal Scottish Museum; in Cardiff the National Museum of Wales; in Belfast the Ulster Museum.

Situated in Bloomsbury, just off Tottenham Court Road, the British Museum is the world's largest museum and was built between 1823 and 1852. Its magnificent library has the right, by law, to one copy of every publication printed in Britain. Things to single out include the Rosetta Stone in the Southern Egyptian Gallery, and, in the manuscript room, the Magna Gharta, Nelson's log book and Scott's last diary.

The Victoria and Albert Museum displays fine and applied art of all countries and periods. Worth seeking out are the costume displays, the rooms of different historical periods, the jewellery and porcelain, the celebrated Raphael cartoons belonging to the Crown and the best collection of English miniatures to be found in the country.

The National Gallery exhibits all schools of European paintings from the 13th to the 19th century and includes works by Van Dyck, Rubens, Vermeer, Holbein, El Greco, Goya, Velasquez, Gainsborough and Leonardo da Vinci. It also includes the largest collection of Rembrandts outside Holland. There are over thirty rooms in the Gallery and lectures are given regularly by experts.

The Tate Gallery is really three galleries: a national gallery of British art, a gallery of modern sculpture and a gallery of modern foreign paintings. Among the treasures to be found are modern sculpture by Rodin, Moore and Epstein

The Natural History Museum is the home of the national collections of living and fossil plants and animals. It also has collections of rocks, minerals and meteorites. The building of the Museum, which is over one hundred years old, also houses a scientific research institution.

The Science Museum houses the national collections of science, industry and medicine. Many exhibits are full size and there are many historic objects of scientific and technological significance. Additionally there are exhibits sectioned to show their internal construction, and working models.

Of great scientific and public interest are the Geological Museum, the National Maritime Museum, the London Museum and many others.

Most cities and towns have museums devoted to arts, archaeology, and natural history, usually administered by the local authorities but sometimes by local learned societies or by individuals or trustees. Both Oxford and Cambridge are rich in museums, many of them associated with the universities, such as the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, founded in 1683, the oldest in the world, and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. Many private art collections in historic family mansions, including those owned by the National Trust, are open to the public, while an increasing number of open air museums depict the regional life of an area or preserve early industrial remains.

A major expansion in the number of museums is taking place and many are introducing new display techniques that attract increasing numbers of visitors. Over 68 million people a year attend the 2,000 or so museums and galleries open to the public, which include the major national collections and a wide variety of municipally and independently or privately owned institutions.

British character

Date: 2015-12-11; view: 5046

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