Radical change occurred in British painting after 1880. A younger generation of mostly Paris-trained artists brought back to Britain an Impressionism that provoked immediate hostility in the Victorian art establishment. New schools based on artists’ colonies in Cornwall and the west of Scotland were formed and new societies such as the New English Art Club were established. When these approaches entered the Edwardian mainstream even more radical trends were emerging in the work of Scottish Colourists and Camden Town painters. Initial tendencies towards abstraction were, however, halted by the Great War – the demand was for documentary reporting and legibility.

Although a number of artists based in Hampstead and Cornwall resumed abstract exploration in the inter-war period, figurative painting remained dominant – despite informed influence from Cubism and Surrealism. Traditionalists were dismayed when one of Picasso’s first post-war visitors was the new director of the Tate Gallery, and when the Arts Council was formed in 1946, its aim was primarily to promote a new expressive abstraction that could stand up internationally. Even the Independent Group of early Pop artists had difficulty at first arguing its case. But by the end of the 1960s three clear strands had emerged, abstraction, conceptualism and Pop Art. Old teaching structures began to break down and art schools were promoting the creative individualism that persists to this day.