As the British Empire reached its peak in the 19th century, artists and designers were increasingly influenced by eastern cultures such as India, China, Japan and the Islamic world. The century also saw a revival in Classical and Renaissance motifs.
Style Guide: Influence of Islam
The arts of the Islamic world became increasingly influential from the 1840s. The complex religious and historical factors influencing the appearance of objects from Iran, Turkey, north Africa and southern Spain were seldom understood, but such works were deeply admired for their technical and aesthetic brilliance.
Style Guide: Influence of China
The expansion of British diplomatic, trade and religious activity in China in the 1850s and 1860s brought previously unknown examples of Chinese art and design to the attention of British collectors and designers. Chinese ceramics, in particular, had a great influence on British potters.
Style Guide: Influence of Japan
The arts of Japan had a profound influence on British culture in the second half of the 19th century. Japanese art was very different from anything being produced in Britain. It provided a major source of inspiration for many artists and designers in the period from 1850 to 1900.
Arts & Crafts
The Arts and Crafts Movement began in Britain around 1880 and quickly spread to America, Europe and Japan. Inspired by the ideas of John Ruskin and William Morris, it advocated a revival of traditional handicrafts, a return to a simpler way of life and an improvement in the design of ordinary domestic objects. In 2005, the V&A hosted the exhibition 'International Arts and Crafts'.
Art Nouveau was a movement in the visual arts popular from the early 1890s up to the First World War. It is viewed by some as the first self-conscious attempt to create a modern style. Its influence can be found in painting, sculpture, jewellery, metalwork, glass and ceramics.The drawings of Aubrey Beardsley, the architecture of Victor Horta and Paul Hankar and the poster designs of Alphonse Mucha are some of the most familiar examples of the Art Nouveau style.
The 19th century was a period of huge growth in Britain, which had a profound effect on art and design. The Industrial Revolution saw Britain become a major manufacturing power, as displayed in the Great Exhibition of 1851. The Victorian period saw the British Empire reach its peak, and designers increasingly looked to the East for inspiration.