Art collections of 18th-century Great Britain contained works from Italy, France, Spain, and Germany…but almost none from England. That changed dramatically in the 1780s, when London civic leader John Boydell began to commission British artists to create paintings depicting scenes and characters from William Shakespeare’s plays, producing Boydell’s Shakespeare Gallery. This establishment, located in London’s West End, opened with a display of 35 paintings in its main galleries and, eventually, a folio of engraved prints reproducing the Gallery’s paintings as well as an illustrated edition of Shakespeare’s plays. With his enterprise, Boydell hoped to forge an alliance between the worlds of commerce and art, creating a system of support for British artists by ensuring their art would be profitable.
A collaboration of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), this installation in Montgomery’s Blount Cultural Park features engravings from Boydell’s illustrated edition of the plays—which happen to be part of the MMFA permanent collection—along with descriptions of each scene by ASF’s resident dramaturg Susan Willis and enhanced by audio clips of ASF actors performing the various scenes. We hope you enjoy this 21st-century expression of Boydell’s dream of uniting the visual and theatrical arts!
Above: Photograph of the 2021 installation of the exhibition A Stroll with Shakespeare: The Boydells and the Bard at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
Organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama.
Generous support for this exhibition provided by Art Bridges.
Listen to the Scenes
Hear actors from the Alabama Shakespeare Festival perform the scenes illustrated by Boydell’s engravings.