Exhibition: Shakespeare on Canvas at YCBA

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on January 27, 2012

From YCBA:

‘While these visions did appear’: Shakespeare on Canvas
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 3 January — 3 June 2012

Curated by Eleanor Hughes and Christina Smylitopoulos

Johann Heinrich Ramberg, "Olivia, Maria, and Malvolio, from 'Twelfth Night', Act III, Scene iv," 1789, oil on canvas (Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund)

“While these visions did appear,” a selection of Shakespearian subjects drawn from the Center’s permanent collection of paintings, forms part of Yale’s university-wide celebration of the works of William Shakespeare (1564–1616). This display focuses primarily on depictions of Shakespeare’s comedies, but also draws on comedic elements from the tragedies and histories, and encourages consideration of the multifaceted ways—verbal and visual—in which Shakespeare’s plays have inspired painters and audiences alike.

Artists and patrons in the eighteenth century responded to and encouraged the assertion of Shakespeare as Britain’s foremost national playwright. Through the remarkable efforts of David Garrick, the actor and Drury Lane theater manager, the plays flourished on the stage, while the promotion of the playwright as the “immortal bard” was seized as an opportunity to foster a British school of history painting.

Combining commerce and connoisseurship, entrepreneurial publishers like John “Alderman” Boydell and James Woodmason commissioned works such as a scene from Twelfth Night by Johann Heinrich Ramberg, and Francis Wheatley’s scene from The Two Gentlemen of Verona, respectively, creating what amounted to a new genre: the Shakespearean conversation piece. Strategies of representation included the depiction of famous actors and actresses in favored roles, such as Benjamin van der Gucht’s portrait of actor Henry Woodward in the role of Petruchio in David Garrick’s adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, and James Northcote’s portrait of the child actor William Henry West Betty in the role of Hamlet. Other compositions, destined to be illustrations for new print editions of Shakespeare’s plays, depict characters in pivotal dramatic moments, such as Phillippe-Jacques de Loutherbourg’s portrait of Falstaff from Henry IV. (more…)

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