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Illustrating Shakespeare (hardback)

Published Date:
May 2013
British Library Publishing
Bibliographic Details:
Hardback, 144 pages, 270 x 200mm, 20 colour and 80 B&W illustrations
Peter Whitfield
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Artists have been drawn to the plays of Shakespeare for more than three centuries. For the artist, the challenge was to re-create the characters and the drama not on the living stage, but to freeze them into images that were timeless, and not bound within the walls of a theatre.

Painters as varied as Hogarth, Blake, Fuseli, West, Delacroix, Millais and Waterhouse produced works of art which have strongly influenced our mental image of the plays. Other less-known artists in the 18th and 19th centuries produced magnificent illustrated editions of Shakespeare’s works, which functioned as private theatres, enabling readers at home to re-create the plays in their own imagination.

This book shows how some artists succeeded in capturing the psychological truth of the dramas, while others merely dressed them up to suit the taste of their time. In this respect of course, the history of Shakespearean art exactly resembles that of Shakespearean theatre production; but where the theatre is ephemeral, the artistic tradition has become the rich and permanent legacy displayed in this fascinating book.

About the author
Peter Whitfield is the author of 20 books on history, poetry and literary criticism, including The Image of the World: 20 Centuries of World Maps (2010), A Shakespeare Handbook (2012) and Travel: A Literary History (2012).

'It's bountifully illustrated and a very good read, a fascinating tribute to this rich and enduring artistic legacy.'
The Good Book Guide

'...a significant reference book for art and theatre historians, as well as literary researchers and those performing or producing Shakespeare’s plays.'
Lynsey Blandford, Refer: Journal of the Information Services Group (CILIP)
'Literary scholars, art historians and legions of Shakespeare's admirers will be well served by this beautifully produced an engaging survey of Shakespeare Illustration'
Sixteenth Century Journal, Thomas G. Olsen, XLV/1 (2014).

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