The Elizabethan Nicholas Hilliard (1547-1619), was the most celebrated of English miniaturists. His reputation extended to France. Hilliard was a follower of Hans Holbein. He was also the author of a treatise on miniature painting, "The Art of Limning". Hilliard was the author of the miniatures of Elizabeth I, 1572, Sir Walter Raleigh, 1585, Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia, and other members of the courts of Elizabeth I and James I of England.
William Hogarth (1697 – 1764) was one of the greatest innovators in English art. He was a professional rebel. He found English art sycophantic, and determined to make it independent. Instead of working for a few rich patrons, he evolved the idea of making his living out of popular engravings of his pictures. He believed that the lack of a native school of painting was largely due to the fashions imposed on a credulous public by connoisseurs and critics and he waged continual war on taste and the Old Masters.
Sir Joshua Reynolds (Plympton, Devon 1723- London 1792) was an English Rococo Painter and distinguished member of London's intellectual society. By 1760, Reynolds had become the most popular portrait painter in London. In 1768, he founded with Thomas Gainsborough the Royal Academy of Arts. In 1784, Reynolds was appointed principal royal portrait painter. He was already been knighted since 1769. Reynolds' works show an exceptional combination of emotions and technique. Often portraiture with subjects related to Greek and Roman deities, or men, children and women in a wonderful colorist style. Creativity, diversity and originality is present in his painting. Portrait of Nelly O’Brien (Wallace collection) is considered one of his masterpieces. Since 1912, an statue of him is in the courtyard of the Royal Academy.
Thomas Gainsborough (Sudbury, Suffolk, 1727 – London, 1788) was a landscape and portrait painter, considered one of the great English masters. In the aristocratic spa town of Bath and later in London, he became well-known for portraits like Mrs. Philip Thicknesse (1760), Mary, Countess Howe (about 1763-4), The Blue Boy (exhibited R. A. 1770), and the landscape The Harvest Wagon (exhibited S. A. 1767). In 1768 he became one of the foundation members of the Royal Academy, at which he exhibited annually until 1784. In 1780, Gainsborough painted the King George III and Queen Charlotte, becoming the Royal Family's favorite painter. Before his death in 1788, he turned from portraiture to pictorial compositions, producing in all some 200 landscapes in addition to his prolific output of about 800 portraits of the English aristocracy. Gainsborough is the master of the English Rococo. Sir Joshua Reynolds, President of the Royal Academy, was in painting his most important rival
Joseph Mallord William Turner (Covent Garden 1775 - London 1851) was a British Romantic painter. In 1799, he was elected to the Royal Academy where he exhibited watercolors from 1790 to 1820. In satisfying the fashion for ruins, mountains and waterfalls, he was pleasing and nourishing himself. Ruined abbeys awoke his feelings of history and so charged his mind with the fallacies of hope that this became the title of a chaotic, illiterate epic from which, throughout his life, he quoted mottoes for his pictures. (cf: Clark, Ibidem) After W. Turner’s death, in 1856, the "Turner Bequest" was settled by a decree; this contains around 300 oil paintings and nearly 30,000 sketches and watercolors by his own hand, all found in his studio. It is said that Turner created landscape paintings that are revolutionary even today.
John Constable is today recognised as the major English landscape painter of the 19th century, matched only by his contemporary, J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851). But he was not particularly successful during his lifetime. Constable, as the son of a prosperous miller, was brought up in one of the most beautiful parts of the English country. "These scenes," said Constable, "made me a painter--and I am thankful". His life had always the intense images of his childhood contemplation, trees, horses, water, clouds. (cf: Clark, Ibidem)