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 fancy public character to advertise her reputation. Her aptitude for self-presentation was once matched through the showmanship of the various artists who portrayed her. the following 3 full of life essays--by Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett, Mark Leonard, and Shearer West--explore Siddons's existence and occupation, in addition to her relationships with a few artists. impressive between them used to be 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 pix of Siddons together with works through Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Thomas Lawrence, and Gilbert Stuart.
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Extra info for A Passion For Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her Portraitists
These so-called "points" were eagerly awaited by audiences and were frequently held by the actor for several seconds to allow for applause. Reviews of Siddons's early acting style show that she drew upon the "points" of her predecessors, but she furthered the emotional effect of the action by moving rapidly between passions or endeavoring to convey several passions simultaneously. Her "versatility of countenance" caused comment, 42 and the effect of this malleability was stimulating to audiences.
Siddons . . could be infinitely comic when she pleased,"65 although her public never accepted an image of their heroine so opposed to their conception of her as the Tragic Muse. As discussed above, early descriptions of her tragic style stress the detail with which she observed and conveyed the emotions of her characters and effected a transition between contrasting passions. The emphasis on transitions and nuance—rather than "points" and poses— echoes similar rhetoric used to describe the power of contemporary comic actresses such as Dorothy Jordan.
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. IO, p. 114) was the most effective and influential of these representations. Other portraits, such as Thomas Beach's depiction of Siddons as Melancholy in Milton's "II Penseroso" (see fig. 5> p- 5^) associate the actress with abstract passions, conveyed through a similar stasis of pose and expression.
A Passion For Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her Portraitists by Shearer West, Mark Leonard, Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett