Landscape painting emerged as a distinct genre within British art in the late 17th century. Its roots lay in topographical townscapes and country house portraits which celebrated prosperity and social order after the Restoration of the monarchy. In the first third of the 19th century more rural landscapes were painted than any other kind of picture. Their popularity with the urban middle class reflected unease about life in expanding cities and towns and nostalgia for a purer, more natural life in the countryside. The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and development of railways and steamships meant more people could travel, leading to a demand for views from abroad. These images acted as souvenirs and fed the interest of those unable to travel.
The 1830s and 1840s saw the rise of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who painted landscape studies and backgrounds on the spot with painstaking attention to detail. From the 1870s many young painters who studied on the Continent painted in rural communities in Brittany, where unspoilt landscapes and traditional ways of life could still be found. When they returned to England they established colonies of artists and many were founding members of the New English Art Club in 1886, which included a commitment to painting outdoors. Their influence lasted into the 20th century.