In my previous post I have looked into the theory of internet art, concerning the medium of the material, but now I want to move on to looking at the historical context of the term, and what happened before it. Whilst researching my illustrator Arthur Rackham for my Summer Project Practice I stumbled across the term ‘The Golden Age of Illustration’, which is considered from 1880 to around then end of WWI,1918.

The reason for my interest in the golden age is because it was a movement and growth of popularity in image making at a certain point of history, and if I can discover why it happened then, I should be able to see links between that and the growth and popularity of image making on the internet.

I tried looking in a number of books in the library that chronicle illustration and influential illustrators, but it was actually surprisingly hard to find a decent amount of information on the subject of ‘The Golden Age’. This included looking at books such as ‘The illustrators: The British Art of Illustration’ by Wootton, D & Pearce F and ‘The Image’ by Pajackowska but they both focused primarily on certain illustrators or artists that made images, rather than the movements. As a result of this is resorted to a web document of ‘Peter Harrington’s London’ website, a rare book firm, who have an article about the golden age and specifically Arthur Rackham, written by Laura Massey.

Massey states that the first two decades of the 20th century became known as the golden age because of improvements in printing technologies,which allowed them to create amazingly lavish coloured illustrations for the first time (Massey, 2012). This really reminds me of not only my research into GIF artists but also McLuhan’s theory. My research into GIF artists told me that some of the GIF artists created their work: “As a technology, these have existed since 1987, but they’ve only just recently exploded in popularity, as mass access to the Internet allowed them to travel rapidly and virally online.” (Walker 2010). Where the golden age developed due to an improvement in printing, with internet art it was an improvement in ability to spread images, not as paper copies but virally online. It suggests that as soon as image making develops a new medium to be interested by, like the theories of McLuhan it will be revelled in and they will find new ways of using a new medium to convey a new message.

In this particular blog post Massey Refers to Alton, A the writer of ‘Arousing Delight: Arthur Rackham, Artist and Illustrator’ (2006). In her book she mentions that the development in printing allowed Arthur Rackham and other illustrators working at the time to have a larger scale of production at a better colour quality (Alton, 2006). Not dissimilar from ‘internet art’. By contemporary illustrators and artists being able to distribute their work online, instead of relying on finding a publisher willing to publish your work, and waiting for production and disbursing , their work can travel on the internet at a much faster rate via social media and web hosting programmes, to a potentially larger audience. From this I can see that Internet art becomes a matter of time repeating itself. Not only had printing quality improved in the golden age, I have also learnt that artists like Arthur Rackham did not have to rely on an engraver to cut his lines for his plates for printing instead they could be mechanically produced from a photograph of his work (Alton, 2006). Again, seeing links between this and internet art, if work can be spread online there is no printing costs aren’t just reduced but taken away completely, the medium spreads itself free of charge.

Looking into The Golden Age of illustration has been incredibly helpful in helping me understand the theory of why the boom and popularity happened, as like with many movements artwork is a product of its time.  Again this reminds me of ‘Pop Art’ . I only had to find a few books in the library on POP Art to see that Internet art resonates  similarity to the movement in the 60s, even though decades after the ‘The Golden age of Illustration.

Summary of pop art and its association with internet art:

It also resonates a similar constructing of a movement from the 60s, Pop Art. Pop culture will forever be synonymous with consumerism, part of the throw away culture, everything became disposable and replaceable, as people had the money to do so with the dropping prices of manufacture. Consumerism was popularly reflected in art works from the era, most famously perhaps in Andy Warhol’s ‘Campbell Soup’ 1962. Pop art took advantage of cultural meanings from the era and demonstrated this in their work with messages in seemingly common everyday images, which were in fact commenting on a mass communicating and consuming society (Solomon cited in Madoff 1997). Today’s internet art shares some of these exact same definitions, in popular culture the everyday image was the items being purchased (Campbell soup cans), by the growing consuming society. In ‘internet art’ the images being produced by the artists were the home computer interfaces, screens and applications, all part of the technological culture that was becoming increasingly popular and integrating itself with everyday society. Much like how consumerist items were seen to artist working in the pop art movement.


I believe the theory of internet influenced art stands on a foundation of time repeating itself much like in the golden age of illustration and Pop art, where work created was as a reflection of changing times, advancements in technology and current social and cultural climates, products of its time.

Just by taking a brief look into what caused the boom in illustration, and the boom in popular ars during sixties, although centuries apart it is clear to see that new style of working is a product of time and the mediums available to the artists, although it seemed fairly clear before, I feel as though I have a more educated understanding of internet art now I have thoroughly researched why it exists and what it was a result of.

So far I have looked into :

  • The importance of the GIF, and  its association with Cultural capital
  • The admiration of the GIF and its association with the internet as a human right
  • THe importance of Social Media
  • The medium of internet art, theories based on Marshall McLuhan
  • The context and History of Internet Art

I feel really happy with my research so far and I think the context and history side of my dissertation is now covered. The content of my essay will most likely include the consideration of internet art as a medium and what this means. Feeling very confident to now carry on with my research to find work that interests me and continues to back up my research I now have. My research should now hopefully mainly consists of analysis of work and linking them back to the medium of internet art and what this means.

References used in this post:

Alton, A (2006). Arousing Delight: Arthur Rackham, Artist and Illustrator. Mount Pleasant: MI: Central Michigan University.

Massey, L. (2012). The Golden Age of Illustration: Arthur Rackham. Available: http://www.peterharrington.co.uk/blog/the-golden-age-of-illustration-arthur-rackham/. Last accessed 28th November 2014.

Pajackowska, C., 1995. The image, London: British Film Institute

Solomon cited in Madoff, S.H. & Madoff, S.H., 1997. Pop Art: A Critical History, United States: University of California Press.

Wootton, D. & Pearce, F., 2006. The Illustrators: The British Art of Illustration (1786-2003), United Kingdom: Chris Beetles (Distribution).


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