Culture of Great Britain

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British groups often set new trends in music. New staff and styles continue to appear. One of the most popular contemporary musicians and composers is Andrew Lloyd Webber. The musicals and rock operas by A. L. Webber have been a great success both in Britain and overseas.

The famous English composer of the 19th century was Arthur Sullivan. Together with William Gilbert, the writer of the texts, he created fourteen operettas of which eleven are regularly performed today. In these operettas the English so successfully laugh at themselves and at what they now call the Establishment that W. S. Gilbert and A. Sullivan will always be remembered.

Art Galleries

If you stand in Trafalgar Square with your back to Nelson's Column, you will see a wide horizontal front in a classical style. It is the National Gallery. It has been in this building since 1838 which was built as the National Gallery to house the collection of Old Masters Paintings (38 paintings) offered to the nation by an English Private collector, Sir George Beamount.

Today the picture galleries of the National Gallery of Art exhibit works of all the European schools of painting, which existed between the 13th and 19th centuries. The most famous works among them are Venus and Cupid by Diego Velazquez, Adoration of the Shepherds by Nicolas Poussin, A Woman Bathing by Harmensz van Rijn Rembrandt, Lord Heathfield by Joshua Reynolds, Mrs Siddons by Thomas Gainsborough and many others.

In 1897 the Tate Gallery was opened to house the more modern British paintings. Most of the National Gallery collections of British paintings were transferred to the Tate, and only a small collection of a few masterpieces is now exhibited at Trafalgar Square. Thus, the Tate Gallery exhibits a number of interesting collections of British and foreign modern painting and also modern sculpture.

The collection of Turners paintings at the Tate includes about 300 oils and 19,000 watercolours and drawings. He was the most traditional artist of his time as well as the most original: traditional in his devotion to the Old Masters and original in his creation of new styles. It is sometimes said that he prepared the way for the Impressionists.

The modern collection includes the paintings of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon and Graham Sutherland, Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton, the chief pioneers of pop art in Great Britain. Henry Moore is a famous British sculptor whose works are exhibited at the Tate too. One of the sculptor's masterpieces - the Reclining Figure - is at fees Headquarters of UNESCO in Paris.

The Art of Acting

From the fall of the Roman Empire until the 10th century, acting hardly existed as an art in Western Europe; only the wandering minstrels gave entertainment in castles and at fairs. In England, the first real actors were amateurs who performed Miracle and Morality plays, which were religious in character. In the Elizabethan age, the first professional theatres were opened. At the time of Shakespeare there were at least six companies of actors. Shakespeare himself joined the Earl of Leisester's company, which under James I became known as the King's Men. There were also companies of boy actors. All the women's parts were played by boys. It was very difficult for most actors to earn a living on the stage, even in a London company, and many of them fell into debt. When Shakespeare arrived in London in 1586, the acting was very crude and conventional. There was almost no scenery, and the actors were dressed in the costumes of their day. But when The Globe was opened to the public in 1599, it started the golden age of the theatre in England.

In the first half of the 17th century the influence of the Puritans was bad for the popular theatre, and it was not before the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 that theatre going again became a popular habit. The most popular plays were comedies. The first part played by an actress was that of Desdemona. Nell Gwynn was the first English actress.

By the beginning of the 18th century the most popular type of play was the sentimental comedy. The acting was artificial probably due to the influence of French actors.

: 3/08/2009