Early British Art (Neolithic art, Celtic art, Roman art)
The oldest art forms found in the United Kingdom date back to the Neolithic period. The term 'Neolithic' means New Stone. Inhabitants of the Neolithic period were beginning to settle down into agricultural societies and developing skills in metalwork. They began to devote time to establishing some of the core concepts of civilisation - religion, architecture, communication and art. One of the oldest examples of Neolithic art in the UK is Stonehenge (c 2600 BC). Small carved balls, frequently found in Scotland are common examples of Neolithic art.
The Iron Age heralded the arrival of people know as the Celts. The Celts worked with metals, especially gold, to create typical Celtic art forms. The arrival of the Romans brought a new forms of art, often inspired by the classical artwork of the Greeks. Roman artwork typically featured statues and busts of their heroes. The Romans also created art from glass and were renown for murals and mosaics. Examples of Roman artwork can be found at Fishbourne Palace, near Chichester, West Sussex.
The rise of Christianity brought new Christian art work to Britain. The start of Christianity in Britain often attributed to Augustine in 597 AD, who founded Canterbury Cathedral. However, it really began when Roman traders began arriving in Britain and spreading stories of Jesus along with stories of Roman gods. At this time religion in Britain was dominated by Paganism. The Roman Emperor Constantine saw the advances of worshiping a single God and he believed that it would help unify the Roman Empire. From the 4th Century onwards, British Christianity became more visible and lavish Christian art forms began to appear to help inspire the population. However, Pagan beliefs were still popular and Christianity was viewed as a minority religion. After the Romans departed, Pagan beliefs dominated the country once again, but Christianity survived in the Western fringes of Britain - Wales, Western Scotland and Ireland.