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Victorian vitality

An exhibition examines the best and worst of times of a bygone British era, Lin Qi reports.

By Lin Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-01 08:10
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Echoes From the Age of Steam, an exhibition of Victorian-era British art being held at the galleries of the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Charles Dickens opens A Tale of Two Cities with the luminary lines, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." This statement from the historical drama set against the backdrop of the French Revolution has remained so resonant that it's often been quoted in myriad contexts since its publication.

And its sentiment embodies the spirit of Echoes From the Age of Steam, an ongoing exhibition of Victorian-era British art at the galleries of the National Centre for the Performing Arts on Beijing's Chang'an Avenue that runs through March 25.

One part depicts the vibrant art scene and social life during the period when the Industrial Revolution propelled Britain's rise as a powerful empire and economy under Queen Victoria's rule.

In another section, artists from that time also reveal the other side of a prosperous state: the plight of the working class, money worship, growing disparity between the rich and the poor, pollution in cities and environmental deterioration.

On show are oil paintings, watercolors, drawings and sculptures that introduce British artists' development throughout the 19th century, as they created diverse works and initiated several larger art movements with lasting influence.

The works on display are from the several venues of the National Museums Liverpool, including the Walker Art Gallery, Lady Lever Art Gallery, Sudley House and World Museum, says Sandra Penketh, executive director of galleries and collections management at National Museums Liverpool.

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