After the Roman rule, Britain was invaded by tribes such as the Angles, Saxons and Jutes who brought Germanic influences to British art. Anglo-Saxon artwork features metalwork in the form of weapons and jewellery, ivory and bone carvings and also manuscript illumination and architecture. Anglo-Saxon art may be divided into two distinct periods, one before the Viking invasion of England in the 9th century (Insular art) and one after.
Insular art (Insular is derived from the Latin term 'insular' which means Island) began to emerge after the Roman rule and is noticeably different to the style of art found in the rest of Europe at this time. Typically, Insular art features in religious manuscripts produced by monasteries. Insular style is characterized by abstraction, linear patterns, motifs and colour. Examples of the Insular style of art includes the Book of Lindisfarne, Book of Kells, and also carved stone high crosses such as the Ruthwell Cross.
The Insular period came to an abrupt end by the start of the Viking invasions in the late 8th century. The Vikings closed or destroyed many monasteries in the north, and after the 8th century, finely illustrated Gospel books of the quality of Insular art are rarely found. King Alfred (r 871-899) fort the Vikings and held the back to a line running diagonally across middle England. held the Vikings back to a line running diagonally across the middle of England. The effects of the Vikings were felt until mid-10th century, when the monasteries were revived and interest in architecture grew strong.
The production of Anglo Saxon artwork made of precious metals was brought to an end by the Norman Invasion in 1066. The Normans dis not appreciate the work of the Anglo Saxon artists and much was melted down and taken back to Normandy. Following the Norman invasion in 1066, churches were re-organises and monastic life blossomed once again. A range of intellectual activities were encouraged and ecclesiastic manuscripts were produced once more, although on the artistic scale of the pre-invasion, finely illustrated Gospel books.
Illumination in the Medieval period began to wane in the final phase of the Gothic period as wealthy benefactors began to commission works of art from artists based in Europe, notably Paris and Flanders. Stained glass windows also rose to prominence during this period - used in both the church to tell religious stories and to inspire, and also for secular purposes.