5 Famous British Painters

4 min readJul 14, 2020

Artists all over the world have shocked and amazed viewers with their talent. Believe it or not, one of the hubs for artistic activity over the centuries has been the U.K. From scenes of war to a Garden of Eden painting to gorgeous portraiture, these painters have solidified their place in art history.

1. J. M. W. Turner

Lifeboat and Manby Apparatus going off to a stranded vessel making signal blue lights of distress Painting by
Reproduction of Lifeboat and Manby Apparatus going off to a stranded vessel making signal blue lights of distress Painting by J.M.W. Turner

J. M. W. Turner lived from 1775 to 1851 and made his living as a printmaker, watercolorist, and, primarily, a Romantic painter. He was known for a few different characteristics in his art, namely his expressive use of color. He was also well-known for his use of landscape and marine imagery. His marine paintings were often rather violent given the era.

By the end of his life, Turner had composed more than 2,000 watercolor paintings, 550 oil paintings, and an additional 30,000 pieces of art on paper. However, much of this was done in his earlier career as, near the end of his life, it was noted that Turner’s mental and physical health seemed to deteriorate to a point that the gallery that was once bustling fell into ruin.

Today, Turner is remembered as a revolutionary artist when it comes to landscape paintings.

2. Solomon J Solomon

Samson and Delilah Painting by Solomon J Solomon
Reproduction of Samson and Delilah Painting by Solomon J Solomon

Solomon J Solomon entered the world right after Turner left it as he lived from 1860 to 1927. Interestingly, art seemed to be a family trade for the Solomons as his sister, Lily Delissa Joseph, was an artist as well.

The artist was heavily influenced by his mentor Alexandre Cabanel as well as artists Lawrence Alma-Tadema and Frederic Leighton. His paintings were dramatic and he favored classic scenes from both the Bible and mythology. He also did a number of portrait pieces over the span of his career.

Solomon’s influence as a painter wasn’t limited to just his own art either. He also served as a founding member of the New English Art Club and was a known member of the Royal Academy. Interestingly, viewers can also thank Solomon for his contribution to the camouflage used in the First World War.

3. Elizabeth Thompson

Scotland For Ever! Painting by Elizabeth Thompson
Reproduction of Scotland For Ever! Painting by Elizabeth Thompson

There have also been female artists that shaped the course of art history in Britain. One of the most famous artists is Elizabeth Thompson who was also sometimes referred to as Lady Butler after her marriage to Lieutenant General Sir William Butler. While she was born in Switzerland in 1846, she spent most of her life working within the U.K.

Her speciality was her depictions of wartime. She captured plenty of military campaigns on canvas in paintings such as The Roll Call, The Defence of Rorke’s Drift, and Scotland Forever! When asked about her choice of subject later in life, she stated that “I never painted for the glory of war, but to portray its pathos and heroism.”

In her publicity at the time, many fans were interested in Thompson not only because her artwork was masterful but because she was a pretty, young woman as well. This clashed with the traditional notion of wartime painters.

4. Ernest Crofts

Charles I Painting by Ernest Crofts
Reproduction of Charles I Painting by Ernest Crofts

Ernest Crofts was an artist alive from 1847 to 1911. He is best known for his military paintings and depictions of historical scenes including paintings such as A Roundhead On Horseback, Wallenstein, A Scene of the Thirty Years War, and Queen Elizabeth I Opening the Royal Exchange in 1570.

Crofts started out in Rugby School but after finding his love of art, he switched career paths to become a painter. He studied under A.B. Clay for a time before he spent some time in Germany and attended the Düsseldorf School of Painting for a few years.

During his lifetime, he enjoyed popularity in the 1870s and 1880s. He lost popularity after this point, largely because war paintings as a whole went through a period where the genre itself was less popular.

5. John Dickson Batten

Sleeping Beauty Painting by John Dickson Batten
Reproduction of Sleeping Beauty Painting by John Dickson Batten

John Dickson Batten was a painter alive from 1860 to 1932 with plenty of disciplines under his belt. In addition to oil painting, he was also a fan of tempera and fresco styles. Fresco is the practice of painting murals on freshly laid plaster and tempera refers to a technique using fast-drying paints mixed with a binder such as egg yolks.

Batten’s favorite subject matter was mythology and he often played with allegorical themes in his art. He also worked as a poet and illustrator and even illustrated a series of fairy tales after a member of the Folklore Society, Joseph Jacobs, edited them into a book.


These are some of the most popular British painters but there have been countless artists over the centuries to leave their mark in art history. Exploring these artists is a great way to find new material that you’ll fall in love with.




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