Eastern England is mostly rural, its medieval wealth based on the wool trade and other agricultural activities. It has a rich landscape, favoured by artists for the 'big skies' and low horizons. East Anglia’s close cultural connections with the Low Countries, as well as its similar topography, doubtless encouraged the strong tradition of landscape painting in that area, as seen in the work of Gainsborough, Crome, Cotman and Constable. In the late nineteenth century the fishing village of Walberswick in Suffolk became a fashionable artists' colony, attracting important painters such as Philip Wilson Steer. From the 1930s to the 1970s north Essex was home to the Great Bardfield group artists such as John Aldridge, Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious and Michael Rothenstein. Much of Hadham in Hertfordshire is home to the Henry Moore Foundation. Close to London, Eastern England remains a strong attraction for artists.
The Midlands make up the central part of England. The East Midlands has a varied social and industrial history and a topography that ranges from the gritstone edges of the Derbyshire Peak District to the flatlands of the Lincolnshire fens, including coalfields and gently rolling agricultural landscape punctuated by industrial centres and historic market towns. The topography has inspired artists from the seventeenth century onwards, while the industrial revolution is recorded in scenes of dramatic iron forges, cotton mills, engineering works, abandoned mines and new forests. Joseph Wright of Derby participated in the vibrant intellectual life of his town, reflecting its pioneering role in the industrial revolution as well as portraying its personalities. Other East Midlands-born or based artists such as Paul Sandby, Peter de Wint, Richard Parkes Bonington and Henry Dawson each played a role in developing the British landscape tradition, while artists such as William Nicholson and Laura Knight studied here and retained strong links with the region.
The West Midlands was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, with the development of coke-fuelled iron founding at Ironbridge, the steam engine in Birmingham and mass-produced ceramics in Stoke-on-Trent. This period saw a close alliance between manufacture and design in the factories of Matthew Boulton and Josiah Wedgwood. Manufacturing was dominated by small family-run workshops supported by large numbers of journeymen and artisans educated in the rudiments of art and design. Some became drawing masters and painters supplying the growing demand for arts and crafts from the expanding and prosperous middle class. Birmingham Academy of Arts was founded in 1814 on the model of the Royal Academy in London. Birmingham School of Art was the first municipal art school in Britain and became the engine of visual arts in the region, steeped in the progressive Arts and Crafts idealism of William Morris and John Ruskin.