By Shearer West, Mark Leonard, Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett
Well known for her majestic good looks and impassioned performances, the English actress Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) revolutionized the aesthetics of eighteenth-century theater whereas inventing a posh public personality to advertise her reputation. Her aptitude for self-presentation was once matched through the showmanship of the numerous artists who portrayed her. the following 3 vigorous essays--by Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett, Mark Leonard, and Shearer West--explore Siddons's lifestyles and occupation, in addition to her relationships with a couple of artists. awesome between them was once Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose masterpiece Sarah Siddons because the Tragic Muse grew to become an icon of this nice actress on the height of her occupation. This lavish quantity additionally brings jointly fifty-five different pictures of Siddons together with works by means of Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Thomas Lawrence, and Gilbert Stuart.
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Extra resources for A Passion For Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her Portraitists
76) goes a step further and displaces performance entirely with the emblematic mask and dagger of tragedy. These representations convey the idea of a highly artificial performance mode analogous to Reynolds's advocacy of generalization and elevation in art. The transference of such conventions from writing to art and acting was consolidated by Henry Fuseli's sketchy and suggestive depiction of Siddons in the dagger scene of Macbeth (fig. 17) > possibly painted in l8l2, the year of her official retirement.
These associations were made implicitly, rather than explicitly, and were frequently retrospective. Reynolds's aesthetic theories helped perpetuate such ideas. 61 Reynolds was not only a friend of Siddons but he also gave her advice about costumes and hairstyle. 63 This interchange was promoted by many paintings and engravings that elevated Siddons to an abstraction rather than represent her as a private character or an actress performing a role. Reynolds's portraits of Siddons as the Tragic Muse (see fig.
46 Such a mingling of private feeling and public display of emotion was probably not what acting theorists were advocating when they urged actors to "feel the part," but this empathic understanding of the situations of her characters undoubtedly gave Siddons some motivation in her parts and may also have communicated itself to an audience well informed about her private woes and eager to cry with her. The behavior of her audiences is one of the most notable and distinctive aspects of Siddons's history, particularly in the first two decades of her London career.