Boydell Shakespeare Gallery Engravings
October 01 through January 08, 2017
Interest in the writings of William Shakespeare, particularly his plays, flourished in the 1770s and 1780s. Literary critics, theatrical performers, and playwrights all agreed that he was the finest dramatist in the history of the English language. In keeping with the tenor of the times, visual artists also produced paintings and prints inspired the plays and their most important characters.
In 1786, a successful English printer and publisher, John Boydell, conceived of a gallery of paintings inspired by Shakespeare’s plays commissioned from contemporary artists. Over a period of almost two decades he gathered works by some of the best-known painters of the day. The gallery opened in London in 1789 with 34 paintings, and by 1802 there were 167. The Shakespeare Gallery was an elaborate and costly proposition for its time, and plagued by financial difficulties, it closed in 1805.
The project’s most lasting impact is a series of engravings based upon the Shakespeare Gallery’s paintings. In conjunction with First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare, the Museum will exhibit a group of these engravings made for Boydell’s illustrated editions of the plays. The engravings on view illustrate scenes from a range of plays including The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, history plays such as Richard II, and tragedies such as Macbeth and Hamlet.
Organized by the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama
Photography of installation at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts