Celebrating Shakespeare

Happy Birthday to William Shakespeare, born on this day in 1564.  Today is also the anniversary of the Bard’s death.  Dare I say it?  Dying on your birthday is a dramatically Shakespearean thing to do. When a young group of artists founded the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 they drew up a list of ‘Immortals’, made…
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May the Force Be With You

When Victorian artist Ford Madox Brown saw William Charles Macready play King Lear, the performance inspired the artist so much that he passionately sketched and painted several depictions of it. (You can see one above. Cordelia is modeled by Brown’s wife Emma, the fool is fellow artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.)  This is the kind of…
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Pre-Raphaelites and the Bard

If you are looking for Shakespeare inspiration today, you are in luck!  Visit happybirthdayshakespeare.com for a large collective of bloggers sharing posts in honor of the day! At the end of this post, you will find links to other Pre-Raphaelite images of Shakespearean works on PreRaphaeliteSisterhood.com. In celebration of the Bard’s birthday, here’s my favorite Shakespearean…
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Forbidden Fruit

Mauvais Sujet is not your stereotypical, chocolate-box-pretty Victorian portrait.  She’s almost uncomfortable to look at, as she is both very young and almost sensual. On her desk you can see her name, Mary, scrawled in a childlike hand.   I’m not exactly sure what Madox Brown wants us to feel about her.  She’s obviously idle, choosing…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

  “Romeo and Juliet‘s description of the frantic haste of the rash lovers blends together humor, irony, poignancy, and disapproval, but Shakespeare conveys above all a deep inward understanding of what it feels like to be young, desperate to wed, and tormented by delay.” — author Stephen Greenblatt in his book Will in the World:…
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Pre-Raphaelites and Shakespeare: King Lear

King Lear is a tragic play filled with anger and grief.   It is wrought with suffering and explores issues of old age and family as only Shakespeare could explore them.  William Holman Hunt took inspiration from a quotation of King Lear for his painting The Hireling Shepherd (pictured above).  It is from the lines of…
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Waiting: An English Fireside of 1854-5

Painted by Ford Madox Brown, Waiting:  An English Fireside 1854-55 was originally meant to depict a middle-class mother in a scene of domesticity.  Later, the artist made changes in order to paint her as the wife of an officer who was fighting in the Crimean war, adding a small miniature portrait of her husband in…
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Emma Madox Brown

Artist Ford Madox Brown was a widower with a young daughter, Lucy. Although not officially a member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, he was closely involved with most of them, especially Rossetti. Emma began posing for Brown in 1848, the year the Brotherhood was formed. Romance blossomed and eventually the two unmarried lovers conceived a child….
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