This exhibition focuses on the conflict, martyrdom and catastrophe found in history painting from the eighteenth century to the present day. In England, history painting first emerged in the eighteenth century.
Artists such as John Singleton Copley (1738–1815) and Benjamin West (1738–1820) presented recent British battles and deaths in the grandest possible manner and depicted scenes from ancient history to remind viewers of the timeless virtues to which they should aspire. This exhibition will show how these traditions of history painting have persisted in the work of British modernists such as Winifred Knightsand Stanley Spencer, in Richard Hamilton and Rita Donagh’s work of the 1980s, in the work of Dexter Dalwood and in recent installations such as Jeremy Deller’sBattle of Orgreave 2001. It will celebrate the emotional power of history painting and show its persistent place in art.