At its formation, the United Kingdom inherited the literary traditions of England, Scotland and Wales, including the earliest existing native literature written in the Celtic languages, Old English literature and more recent English literature including the works of William Shakespeare and John Milton.
The early 18th century is known as the Augustan Age of English literature. The poetry of the time was highly formal, as exemplified by the works of Alexander Pope, and the English novel became popular, with Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Samuel Richardson's Pamela and Henry Fielding's Tom Jones.
From the late 18th century, the Romantic period showed a flowering of poetry comparable with the Renaissance 200 years earlier and a revival of interest in vernacular literature. In Scotland the poetry of Robert Burns revived interest in Scots literature. In Wales the late 18th century saw the revival of the eisteddfod tradition, inspired by Iolo Morganwg. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) by Mary Wollstonecraft, is one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy.
In the 19th century, major poets in English literature included William Blake, William Wordsworth, Percy Shelley , Lord Byron and others. The Victorian period was the golden age of the realistic English novel, represented by Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne), Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Thomas Hardy.
World War I gave rise to British war poets and writers.
Notable Irish writers include Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, George Bernard Shaw and W. B. Yeats. The Celtic Revival stimulated a new appreciation of traditional Irish literature. The Scottish Renaissance of the early 20th century brought modernism to Scottish literature as well as an interest in new forms in the literatures of Scottish Gaelic and Scots. The English novel developed in the 20th century into much greater variety and it remains today the dominant English literary form.
Other globally well-known British novelists include George Orwell, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, D. H. Lawrence, Mary Shelley, Lewis Carroll,Virginia Woolf, Ian Fleming, Walter Scott, Agatha Christie,Joseph Conrad, Graham Greene, E. M. Forster, Aldous Huxley, Roald Dahl, Helen Fielding, Arthur C. Clarke, Alan Moore, Ian McEwan, Anthony Burgess, Evelyn Waugh, William Golding, Salman Rushdie, Douglas Adams, P. G. Wodehouse, Martin Amis, Anthony Trollope, Beatrix Potter, A. A. Milne, Philip Pullman, Terry Pratchett, H. Rider Haggard, Neil Gaiman and J. K. Rowling. Important British poets of the 20th century include Rudyard Kipling, Philip Larkin and others.
The traditional folk music of England has contributed to several genres, such as sea shanties, jigs, hornpipes and dance music. It has its own distinct variations and regional peculiarities.
The UK was one of the two main countries in the creation and development of many genres of popular music, including; rock music; The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks; hard rock; Led Zeppelin, Cream, Whitesnake; progressive rock; Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes; glam rock; Queen, Elton John, David Bowie; punk rock; Sex Pistols, The Clash; goth rock; The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees; synth pop; Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, Pet Shop Boys; alternative rock; The Smiths, New Order, Radiohead, Coldplay; symphonic rock; ELO, Muse; Britpop; Oasis, Blur, The Verve; soul; Sade, Amy Winehouse, Adele.
The UK has also pioneered various forms of electronic dance music including dubstep, acid house, uk garage, drum and bass and trip hop, with acts including; The Prodigy, Massive Attack, Jamiroquai, The Chemical Brothers, Gorillaz. Other notable British artists in pop music include; Spice Girls, Leona Lewis, One Direction and Robbie Williams.
The UK has had a large impact on modern cinema, producing some of the greatest actors, directors and motion pictures of all time, including Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, David Lean, Laurence Olivier, Anthony Hopkins and others. Two of the biggest actors in the silent era were Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel.
The five most commercially successful British directors in recent years are David Yates, Christopher Nolan, Mike Newell, Ridley Scott and Paul Greengrass.
Hollywood films with a British dimension have had enormous worldwide commercial success. Many of the highest-grossing films worldwide of all time have a British historical, cultural or creative theme. Films based on British historical events; Titanic, Piracy in the Caribbean,The Great Escape, historical people; King Arthur, Elizabeth I, British stories; The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, James Bond, The Chronicles of Narnia, Sherlock Holmes, Frankenstein, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Treasure Island, The War of the Worlds .
portraits and satires, and was the first great English printmaker.
If Hogarth was the artist of the towns, Gainsborough, contemporary of Reynolds, was the painter of the countryside, frequently the background to his portraits. In a similar tradition was Stubbs, as famous for his portraits of horses as of people.
The late 18th century and the early 19th century was perhaps the most radical period in British art, producing William Blake (1757–1827), John Constable (1776–1837) and William Turner (1775–1851), three of the most influential British artists, each of whom have dedicated spaces allocated for their work at the Tate Britain.
The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB) achieved considerable influence after its foundation in 1848 with paintings that concentrated on religious, literary, and genre subjects executed in a colourful and minutely detailed style. PRB artists included John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and subsequently Edward Burne-Jones. Also associated with it was the designer William Morris, whose efforts to make beautiful objects affordable (or even free) for everyone led to his wallpaper and tile designs to some extent defining the Victorian aesthetic and instigating the Arts and Crafts movement.
Both William Burges and Augustus Pugin were architects committed to the Gothic Revival, who expanded into designing furniture, metalwork, tiles and objects in other media. There was an enormous boom in re-Gothicising the fittings of medieval churches, and fitting out new ones in the style, especially with stained glass, an industry revived from effective extinction.
The modern period in British art may be said to date from the year 1910, when the first Post-Impressionist Exhibition was held in London.
British attitudes to modern art were "polarized" at the end of the 19th century. Modernist movements were both cherished and vilified by artists and critics; Impressionism was initially regarded by "many conservative critics" as a "subversive foreign influence", but became "fully assimilated" into British art during the early-20th century.
Visual artists from the United Kingdom in the 20th century include Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, and the pop artists Richard Hamilton and Peter Blake. Also prominent amongst twentieth-century artists was Henry Moore, regarded as the voice of British sculpture, and of British modernism in general. In 1958 artisplt Gerald Holtom designed the protest logo for the British CND, which later became a universal peace symbol used in many different versions worldwide. As a reaction to abstract expressionism, pop art emerged originally in England at the end of the 1950s.
British graphic designer Storm Thorgerson co-founded the English graphic art group Hipgnosis, who have designed many iconic single and album covers for rock bands. His works were notable for their surreal elements, with perhaps the most famous being the cover for Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. The subversive political artwork of Banksy (pseudonym of the renowned English graffiti artist whose identity is concealed) can be found on streets, walls and buildings all over the world, and has also featured in TV shows.