Observation and Imagination in British Art, 1750-1950


Organised by the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts in the autumn of 2007, British Vision. This exhibition encompassed an impressive display of some two hundred years of British art. The exhibition was the first such compilation of British art to go on display on the continent in decades. All the big names  were represented at the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts: Hogarth, Gainsborough, Stubbs, Blake, Fuseli, Constable, Turner, Burne-Jones, Millais, Rossetti, Spencer, Sutherland, Bacon, Hockney, etc. However, there was a great deal more to the exhibition than a collection of two centuries of art. Beyond a mere compilation of British art, the exhibition endeavoured to bring to light its distinctive and unique character.



What is it that makes British art so typically British? In order to expose this quality of 'Britishness' the exhibition shall focus on two fundamental characteristics that define British art during this period: a talent for observation and a tendency towards the visionary. Hogarth and Constable, for example, continue to amaze viewers with their keen observation of reality whereas the tendency towards the visionary and fantastic can be found in such figures as Blake and Bacon. The work of Turner and Spencer, on the other hand, succeed in bringing these two seemingly contradictory approaches to a synthesis.


For the public, this exhibition represents a long-awaited opportunity to make an acquaintance with British art. The landscape, the portrait and conversation piece, satire and socially engaged art, the literary and biblical art of the Pre-Raphaelites, typical art from the First and Second World Wars: enjoy all these movements in a single exhibition with no less than 300 paintings, sculptures, sketches, prints and photographs of exceptional quality. The numerous masterpieces on loan from such renowned museums as the Tate Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Yale Centre for British Art, but also from smaller holdings and private collections all contribute to making this exhibition a unique event that is not to be missed.