So, why is a "language" learning website using art rather than stock images of happy students?
Well, these images are products of their times, representing things that, even today, have a key impact on Anglo-American culture - the Protestant work ethic, the Agrarian Revolution, the Industrial Revolution..., all of which drive the way people THINK and the assumptions even beliefs that are critical to the way native speakers communicate in English.
Thus a manager in any Anglo-American company will have expectations of HOW things should be done which are almost invariably unsaid and never taught as a part of language but if you understand her or his (her deliberately first) cultural background you can start to understand the non-verbals parts of communication any native speaker automatically understands.
Art is useful as a code, a way of representing and understanding those key moments and cultural drivers of communication.
As an introduction we include the images you will find in this website
Mr. and Mrs. Andrews by Thomas Gainsborough 1750
Thomas Gainsborough was hugely successful as a portraitist but in reality far preferred landscape painting – which paid less well.
This early painting though is highly unusual in mixing the two forms, showing the newly married Andrews in their estate and presenting them as modern landlords: their wheat cultivated efficiently using Jethro Tull’s seed drills, which produced wheat in neat rows - notably increasing productivity.
It was the agrarian revolution that reduced the cost of production of staple foods, taking productivity to world-leading levels and freeing up (even forcing) labour to work in industry. British agriculture has remained among the most efficient in Europe - a cause of difficulty in the relationship with the EU where agricultural subsidies have been targeted at the small farmer, that virtually ceased to exist more than a century ago in the UK.
The agrarian revolution also required large scale organisation - it is no accident that current project management certifications such as PMP/Prince2 or Quality certifications (ISO9001) evolved in the Anglo-American business world.
Mr and Mrs Andrews can be seen at the National Gallery in London.
An Iron Forge (1772) - Joseph Wright of Derby (1734-97)
Joseph Wright of Derby was in many ways the first professional artist to paint the industrial revolution.
This painting is a classic example of Wright's work, showing the proud Iron-Founder with his family, representing the growing confidence of the middle classes. He stands there calmly supervising, dressed quite fashionably, with his new water-powered forge which has certainly lightened his workload. His physique and the happy family also reinforce the middle class idea of hard work producing domestic bliss - a representation of the "Protestant Work Ethic" that even now affects the culture of the UK, USA & Northern Europe.
Wright was significant for bringing the Industrial revolution into art, not surprisingly given he painted mainly in Derby in Northern England, one of the towns central to the revolution.
This picture is on display at the Tate Britain at Millbank, close to the Houses of Parliament in London.
The Heart of the Empire, Niels Moeller Lund, 1904
Niels Moeller Lund although Danish was brought up in the Industrial North East of England in Newcastle.
The Heart of the Empire is perhaps his most famous work, capturing the centre of the British Empire at its zenith with a view of St. Pauls and "the Old Lady of Threadneedle street" - the Bank of England - which was responsible for the rapid growth in the use of debt finance, which was so essential to the growth of commerce and the empire.
The picture can be seen at the Guildhall Gallery in the City of London.
Photo by Stephen C Dickson