The history of British visual art forms part of western art history. Major British artists include: the Romantics William Blake, John Constable, Samuel Palmer and J.M.W. Turner; the portrait painters Sir Joshua Reynolds and Lucian Freud; the landscape artists Thomas Gainsborough and L. S. Lowry; the pioneer of the Arts and Crafts Movement William Morris; the figurative painter Francis Bacon; the Pop artists Peter Blake, Richard Hamilton and David Hockney; the pioneers of Conceptual art movement Art & Language; the collaborative duo Gilbert and George; the abstract artist Howard Hodgkin; and the sculptors Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Henry Moore. During the late 1980s and 1990s the Saatchi Gallery in London helped to bring to public attention a group of multi-genre artists who would become known as the "Young British Artists": Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili, Rachel Whiteread, Tracey Emin, Mark Wallinger, Steve McQueen, Sam Taylor-Wood and the Chapman Brothers are among the better-known members of this loosely affiliated movement.
Britain's oldest known poem, Y Gododdin, was composed in Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North), most likely in the late 6th century. It was written in Cumbric or Old Welsh and contains the earliest known reference to King Arthur. From around the seventh century, the connection between Wales and the Old North was lost, and the focus of Welsh-language culture shifted to Wales, where Arthurian legend was further developed by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Wales's most celebrated medieval poet, Dafydd ap Gwilym (fl.1320–1370), composed poetry on themes including nature, religion and especially love. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest European poets of his age. Until the late 19th century the majority of Welsh literature was in Welsh and much of the prose was religious in character. Daniel Owen is credited as the first Welsh-language novelist, publishing Rhys Lewis in 1885. The best-known of the Anglo-Welsh poets are both Thomases. Dylan Thomas became famous on both sides of the Atlantic in the mid-20th century. He is remembered for his poetry – his "Do not go gentle into that good night; Rage, rage against the dying of the light" is one of the most quoted couplets of English language verse – and for his "play for voices", Under Milk Wood. The influential Church in Wales "poet-priest" and Welsh nationalist R. S. Thomas was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1996. Leading Welsh novelists of the twentieth century include Richard Llewellyn and Kate Roberts.More Info
Three indigenous Celtic languages are spoken in the UK: Welsh, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Cornish, which became extinct as a first language in the late 18th century, is subject to revival efforts and has a small group of second language speakers. In the 2011 Census, approximately one-fifth (19 per cent) of the population of Wales said they could speak Welsh, an increase from the 1991 Census (18 per cent). In addition, it is estimated that about 200,000 Welsh speakers live in England. In the same census in Northern Ireland 167,487 people (10.4 per cent) stated that they had "some knowledge of Irish" (see Irish language in Northern Ireland), almost exclusively in the nationalist (mainly Catholic) population. Over 92,000 people in Scotland (just under 2 per cent of the population) had some Gaelic language ability, including 72 per cent of those living in the Outer Hebrides. The number of children being taught either Welsh or Scottish Gaelic is increasing. Among emigrant-descended populations some Scottish Gaelic is still spoken in Canada (principally Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island), and Welsh in Patagonia, Argentina.More Info
Whilst education in England is the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Education, the day-to-day administration and funding of state schools is the responsibility of local authorities. Universally free of charge state education was introduced piecemeal between 1870 and 1944. Education is now mandatory from ages five to sixteen, and in England youngsters must stay in education or training until they are 18. In 2011, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) rated 13–14-year-old pupils in England and Wales 10th in the world for maths and 9th for science. The majority of children are educated in state-sector schools, a small proportion of which select on the grounds of academic ability. Two of the top ten performing schools in terms of GCSE results in 2006 were state-run grammar schools. In 2010, over half of places at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge were taken by students from state schools, while the proportion of children in England attending private schools is around 7 per cent, which rises to 18 per cent of those over 16. England has the two oldest universities in English-speaking world, Universities of Oxford and Cambridge (jointly known as "Oxbridge") with history of over eight centuries.More Info
Scotland's contributions include the detective writer Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes), romantic literature by Sir Walter Scott, the children's writer J. M. Barrie, the epic adventures of Robert Louis Stevenson and the celebrated poet Robert Burns. More recently the modernist and nationalist Hugh MacDiarmid and Neil M. Gunn contributed to the Scottish Renaissance. A more grim outlook is found in Ian Rankin's stories and the psychological horror-comedy of Iain Banks. Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, was UNESCO's first worldwide City of Literature.More Info
Various styles of music are popular in the UK from the indigenous folk music of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to heavy metal. Notable composers of classical music from the United Kingdom and the countries that preceded it include William Byrd, Henry Purcell, Sir Edward Elgar, Gustav Holst, Sir Arthur Sullivan (most famous for working with the librettist Sir W. S. Gilbert), Ralph Vaughan Williams and Benjamin Britten, pioneer of modern British opera. Sir Harrison Birtwistle is one of the foremost living composers. The UK is also home to world-renowned symphonic orchestras and choruses such as the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the London Symphony Chorus. Notable conductors include Sir Simon Rattle, Sir John Barbirolli and Sir Malcolm Sargent. Some of the notable film score composers include John Barry, Clint Mansell, Mike Oldfield, John Powell, Craig Armstrong, David Arnold, John Murphy, Monty Norman and Harry Gregson-Williams. George Frideric Handel became a naturalised British citizen and wrote the British coronation anthem, while some of his best works, such as Messiah, were written in the English language. Andrew Lloyd Webber is a prolific composer of musical theatre. His works have dominated London's West End since the late 20th century and have also been a commercial success worldwide.More Info
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