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The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0567 Friday, 31 August 2007
Date: Friday, August 31, 2007
Subject: Folger Shakespeare Library's 75th Anniversary Celebration
- On Exhibit September 20, 2007 through January 5, 2008
- Exhibition part of Folger Shakespeare Library's 75th Anniversary
August 28, 2007 -- Imagine a world in which there were no museums or art
collections open to the public, no collections held by the nation. At
the end of the eighteenth century in England, the only way to experience
art was by invitation to view a private collection or by seeing a print
engraved from the original. John Boydell (1719-1804), a prominent London
print-dealer, publisher and politician, and his brother Josiah, changed
that with the opening of their Shakespeare Gallery in 1789.
The Gallery, located at fashionable 52 Pall Mall, filled more than 4000
feet of wall space with paintings of Shakespearean scenes by the leading
artists of the day, among them Joshua Reynolds (then President of the
Royal Academy), Angelica Kaufmann, Benjamin West, George Romney, and
Henry Fuseli. This precursor to modern art museums even had a shop
downstairs. It quickly became the place to be seen in Regency England.
Fanny Burney the novelist turned up; so did Horace Walpole and many others.
Images from the Gallery were widely distributed, creating spin-offs and
competitors. At the same time, Shakespeare's popularity on the stage
with actors such as Sarah Siddons and John Philip Kemble generated a
market for Shakespeare-themed knick-knacks, from jewelry and enameled
boxes to figurines, Wedgwood containers, and even decorative tiles for
Marketing Shakespeare: The Boydell Gallery (1789-1805), co-curated by
Ann R. Hawkins of Texas Tech University and Folger Head of Reference
Georgianna Ziegler, chronicles the development of the Shakspeare
Gallery, both its growth and decline, and the part it played in a
growing market for Shakespeare-related goods in the "Romantic" period.
The exhibition is on view September 20, 2007 through January 5, 2008,
Monday through Saturday, 10am - 5pm (please note new hours), at the
Folger Shakespeare Library. Admission is free.
Drawing from the Folger's rich art collection, and featuring original
works by Henry Fuseli, Caroline Watson, Francesco Bartolozzi, and
William Blake, Marketing Shakespeare will display 100 items from the
Gallery-original paintings, engravings, and documents-as well as
cartoons and other reactions to it. The exhibition captures the Gallery,
Boydell's most famous-and influential-endeavor, a venture that existed
at the junction of book and canvas, and gives us a rare glimpse into
popular tastes for Shakespeare at the turn of the eighteenth-century.
Also on exhibit is a variety of decorative wares that were sold at the
time, including porcelains and enamels of popular Shakespearean actors
Interestingly, the Gallery was an after-thought, a marketing strategy to
sell subscriptions to Boydell's "magnificent and accurate" National
Edition of Shakespeare's plays. The unique illustrated edition featured
custom engravings of Shakespearean scenes from paintings by the leading
artists of the day. After the engraver finished making the plates, the
paintings were returned to Boydell who then hit upon the idea of
exhibiting them in a purpose-built gallery. Commissioning the paintings
themselves was a bit of a scheme on the part of the Boydell brothers to
encourage "history" painting in England and improve the national taste
while also making money.
"We can learn something about popular tastes for Shakespeare from the
growth of the gallery over time," says Hawkins. "When the Shakspeare
Gallery opened in the fall of 1789, visitors could view thirty-four
scenes from twenty-one plays. Of these thirty-four paintings, eight
plays received multiple illustrations: The Merry Wives of Windsor (2),
Richard III (3), A Midsummer Night's Dream (2), As You Like It (3), The
Winter's Tale (3), King Lear (3), Much Ado about Nothing (3), and Romeo
"By the opening of the 1790 exhibition," continues Hawkins, "ten of the
remaining fifteen plays were represented, leaving only Julius Caesar,
Othello, Coriolanus, Richard II, and Cymbeline without a painting. By
1792, only Coriolanus and Julius Caesar remained without illustration,
but paintings of these remaining plays did not appear until 1802. Though
Boydell had only predicted providing two paintings for each play, when
the Gallery closed, all plays had received at least two illustrations,
and others had far more. As You Like It, for example, had been
illustrated thirteen times, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, eight times."
Boydell's grand design ultimately involved donating his gallery and its
contents to the nation, his gift to the country celebrating its national
poet and creating its national art. But the Napoleonic wars doomed
Boydell's project, wiping out the European markets he had hoped would
purchase his prints. To settle his debts, Boydell organized a lottery to
sell off the paintings, drawings, and Gallery. Boydell's engravings
continued to illustrate editions of Shakespeare through the end of the
nineteenth-century. The large engraved plates even had a second life in
America, where they were repaired and reissued-again by
subscription-across the country.
Though Boydell's gallery disappeared, the building that housed it became
home next to the British Institution, which held its own exhibitions and
which many credit as the forerunner to the British Museum. The
alto-relievo of Shakespeare that once greeted visitors to the Gallery
now stands in the garden of Nash's House on the site of Shakespeare's
home, New Place, in Stratford-upon-Avon.
About the Curators
Ann R. Hawkins is an associate professor of English at Texas Tech
University. She specializes in nineteenth-century British literature and
book history and has published scholarly editions of three novels by
Disraeli and the Countess of Blessington, as well as articles on
nineteenth-century women poets, Lord Byron, and the British book trade.
She is currently finishing a book on Shakespearean commodification in
the Romantic era titled Byron and the Shakespeare Trade.
Georgianna Ziegler is Louis B. Thalheimer Head of Reference at the
Folger where she has curated exhibitions on Shakespeare's Unruly Women
and Queen Elizabeth I. She has published articles on Shakespeare in the
nineteenth century and the Boydell Gallery, and is currently writing a
book on Women and Shakespeare, 1790-1890.
Major exhibition support comes from the Winton and Carolyn Blount
Exhibition Fund of the Folger Shakespeare Library.
Gallery Talk: Marketing Shakespeare: The Boydell Gallery (1789-1805) and
Curators offer Folger members a special insider's look at the current
exhibit. Wednesday, 6pm. Members only; membership begins at $75. Call
202.675.0359 to join.
October 17 - November 25
Folger Theatre: As You Like It by William Shakespeare
Subject of the most paintings in the Shakspeare Gallery, As You Like It
creates a world of passionate possibility in the Forest of Arden for the
banished Rosalind and Orlando as chance encounters blossom into love.
Directed by Derek Goldman, with Sarah Marshall as Touchstone, Amanda
Quaid as Rosalind, and Tonya Beckman Ross as Phoebe.
Monday - Friday at 11am and Saturday at 11am and 1pm
Folger Docents offer guided tours of the exhibition, as well as the
Folger's national landmark building, free of charge. No advance
Docent-led tours of the exhibition, as well as the Folger national
landmark building, are offered for groups of 10 or more. To arrange,
please call (202) 675-0395.
Guide by Cell Audio Tours
Visitors, using their own cell phones, can call (202) 595-1844 and
follow the prompts for 34# through 45# to hear the curators share
insights into the exhibition. Available September 17, 2007.
Upcoming Folger Exhibitions
History in the Making: How Early Modern England Imagined Its Past
January 24, 2008 - May 17, 2008
Alan Stewart and Garrett Sullivan, Curators
The act of commemoration is at the heart of the study of Renaissance
England-both in our tribute to that society and in that society's
remembrance of its own past. Explore how the Tudor regime turned to
rewritings of history to explain its right to the English throne and
invented its own past and its own martyrs through history texts.
Folger Shakespeare Library is a world-class center for scholarship,
learning, culture, and the arts. It is home to the world's largest
Shakespeare collection and a primary repository for rare materials from
the early modern period (1500-1750). Folger Shakespeare Library is an
internationally recognized research library offering advanced scholarly
programs in the humanities; an innovator in the preservation of rare
materials; a national leader in how Shakespeare is taught in grades
K-12; and an award-winning producer of cultural and arts programs -
theater, music, poetry, exhibits, lectures, and family programs. By
promoting understanding of Shakespeare and his world, Folger Shakespeare
Library reminds us of the enduring influence of his works, the formative
effects of the Renaissance on our own time, and the power of the written
and spoken word. A gift to the American people from industrialist Henry
Clay Folger, the Folger Shakespeare Library - located one block east of
the U.S. Capitol - opened in 1932. Learn more at www.folger.edu
Folger Shakespeare Library
201 East Capitol Street, SE, one block from the U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20003
METRO: Union Station (red line) or Capitol South (orange / blue line)
Open Monday through Saturday, 10am - 5pm. Closed Sundays and federal
holidays. Admission is free.
Daily Free Guided Tours of the exhibition and building by Folger
Docents: 11am, Monday - Friday; 11am, 1 and 2pm Saturdays.
Source: Folger Shakespeare Library
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