A Passion For Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her by Shearer West, Mark Leonard, Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett

By Shearer West, Mark Leonard, Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett

Popular for her majestic attractiveness and impassioned performances, the English actress Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) revolutionized the aesthetics of eighteenth-century theater whereas inventing a posh public character to advertise her repute. Her aptitude for self-presentation was once matched by way of the showmanship of the numerous artists who portrayed her. right here 3 vigorous essays--by Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett, Mark Leonard, and Shearer West--explore Siddons's existence and profession, in addition to her relationships with a few artists. awesome between them was once Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose masterpiece Sarah Siddons because the Tragic Muse turned an icon of this nice actress on the top of her profession. This lavish quantity additionally brings jointly fifty-five different images of Siddons together with works via Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Thomas Lawrence, and Gilbert Stuart.

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94 The theater increasingly became a forum that not only attracted mixed audiences but also had to maintain the interest of both aristocrats and working people. The potential difficulties of a mixed theater audience came to a head in September 1809? when Kemble and Thomas Harris, then managers of Govent Garden, opened their recently rebuilt theater. 95 The "Old Price" riots that resulted from this change of policy lasted until December, during which time Siddons kept away from her brother's theater and did not perform.

The miniaturist Figure 13. Anonymous after ROBERT DIGHTON. The Pit Door, 1784,. ). London, The British Museum. A Passion for Performance 20 Horace Hone, for instance, took advantage of Siddons's popularity in Dublin in 1784 and executed numerous watercolor and enamel portraits of the actress in different poses and costumes (figs. 14 — 15)These were frequently reproduced for admiring fans who wanted a keepsake of the great tragedienne. Siddons aroused a sort of fetishistic admiration that made her the object of obsession.

35 Her interest in literary criticism is attested to not only by her letters—which are littered with quotations from Shakespeare—but also by the selection of extracts from Milton's Paradise Lost that she published after her retirement. These qualities and activities were certainly recognized, but they were not always emphasized. Despite the evidence of her mental abilities, Siddons's biographer Thomas Campbell encapsulated her as an "endearing domestic character"; the artist Benjamin Robert Haydon provided a diary obituary that summed her up as a "good, & pious, and an affectionate Mother"; and Boaden provided the most astonishing epitaph of all when he wrote of her as "indefatigable in her domestic concerns .

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