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Renaissance Art in England

Updated on September 20, 2016
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Ancient art and architecture isn't only for historians, but for people like us who’ve always been interested in anything olden and periodic.

Renaissance Architectural Style in England
Renaissance Architectural Style in England | Source

The Renaissance (or rebirth) was a cultural art movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy towards the end of the Middle Ages and later spreading through to almost the rest of Continental Europe.

English art movements of the renaissance era according to art history is divided into three periods namely the Early Renaissance, the Middle Renaissance and the Late Renaissance, with each of these periods further subdivided into four eras.

There were different woods for different eras, as is claimed by some sources of historical art; and each era’s wood was the popularly utilized and locally sourced material for the styling and production of wood furniture and cabinetry.

  • The Age of Oak (1500 to 1680)
  • The Age of Walnut (1680 to 1710)
  • The Age of Mahogany (1710 to 1770)
  • The Age of Satinwood (1770 to 1820)

Early Renaissance in England

The period of the Early Renaissance in England was 'The Age of Oak'. It spanned the years 1500 to 1660 with this historical era sub-divided as follows:

  • Tudor, 1500 to 1558
  • Elizabethan, 1558 to 1603
  • Jacobean, 1603 to 1649
  • Cromwellian, 1649 to 1660


This period was during the reigns of Henry VII, Henry VIII, Edward VI and Queen Mary. At this time, Gothic Art and Architectural forms dominated the decorative art scene until the gradual introduction and adoption of Italian Renaissance forms.


Renaissance art was gaining popularity during this transition period, and Renaissance art features were introduced.


By this period in art history, Gothic features were moving into oblivion, and there began a noticeable Flemish influence. Renaissance forms are now freely used and expressed in the decorative arts and strap work carving (carved wooden arabesques and rinceau patterns) became popular features of art and décor.


The Cromwellian era was a period of many religious wars and strife. The arts became unimportant and it was a period of industrial stagnation.

The Middle Renaissance

The Middle Renaissance period spanned the years 1660 to 1750, and was sub- divided into:

  • Restoration period, 1660 to 1689
  • William and Mary, 1689 to 1702
  • Queen Anne, 1702 to 1714
  • Early Georgian, 1714 to 1750


This period is also referred to as the Stuart or Carolean period. There was much French Baroque sway, and the decorative arts depicted 'formalism' in design characteristics. Rooms were expansively panelled and interior spaces were furnished with ornately carved furnishings and rich lavish textiles.

William & Mary

The interior décor of this Middle Renaissance period was the same as in the previous Restoration era, but the changes found, according to the history of art periods, was only in the furniture designs and styles.

This was the Age of Walnut and wood carvings became less outstanding and lavish than it was in the past. Enrichment and Improvement of art styles was achieved mainly by marquetry and wood graining.

Queen Anne

Interior décor became slightly simplified during the art movement of the Queen Anne period, and the use of wallpaper suddenly became the trend. There was a marked style where curved lines (curvilinear) became dominant in the works of architects, sculptors and painters.

Popular woods of the time were mahogany and walnut and there was an obvious influence of the Orients in design, style and finishes.

Early Georgian

This era was during the reigns of George I and some part of the reign of George II. At this time of Renaissance history, pine and walnut was used for architectural interiors, but the details and proportions of the elements were heavy and bulky. Furniture was built strictly with mahogany, and popular and bespoke furniture works include those of the early Chippendale style of furniture and cabinetry works.

Late Renaissance England

This period spanned between 1750 and 1830. It started at the tail end of the Age of Mahogany and through the Age of Satinwood. It was sub-divided into:

  • Middle Georgian, 1750 to 1770
  • Late Georgian, 1770 to 1810
  • Regency, 1810 to 1820
  • Victorian, 1830 to 1901

Middle Georgian

George II and George III reigned during this period of art in England. This was the Age of Mahogany, and famous furniture maker Thomas Chippendale, who reached a high peak of fame, more than any other cabinetmaker in England, capitalised on the trends of the times by refining them using the finest mahogany woods, and constructed his forms in a solid and perfect manner.

This period saw a trend towards lighter proportions of form in interior design and handmade furniture production.

Late Georgian

The end of the reign of George III fell within this Renaissance Age of Satinwood. There was a great influence of Greek decorative arts on art and design. Adam brothers were designers of the neoclassic style, and were known for their architectural designs, interior design and furniture. They were primarily the leaders in decorative arts of England. Hepplewhite, Chippendale and Sheraton were the bespoke upholsterers and cabinet makers of the period.


This was a period of severe neoclassicism, characterised by the simple symmetrical forms of ancient Greek and Roman arts. This style was greatly influenced by Sir John Soane and heralded a decline in the art of handmade craftworks.


This was the beginnings of the growth of industrialisation, and subsequently mass production of furniture. Eclecticism reigned during this Late Renaissance period. There was a colourless, drab interest in art expression, but in all probability, the most laudable industrial art development of the Victorian Era was the production of textiles, specifically chintzes, and flowers, meadows, fields and brook sides was the source of inspiration for the period’s textile designers.

Source: Interior Design And Decoration, by S. Whiton

© 2011 artsofthetimes


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    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judith Hancock 5 years ago from UK

      Thanks for an interesting hub - I tend to think of myself as a history lover, but in fact I confine myself to social/political history, so it was really nice to find out about a different strand of our history. Voted up and shared :-)

    • artsofthetimes profile image

      artsofthetimes 5 years ago

      Thank you for your nice comments Judi. Glad you like it.

      I find art history quite interesting. Knowing what people did, when, where, etc.

      Thank you for the vote up and share.


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