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 fancy public personality to advertise her reputation. Her aptitude for self-presentation used to be matched by way of 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. remarkable between them used to be Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose masterpiece Sarah Siddons because the Tragic Muse turned an icon of this nice actress on the height of her profession. This lavish quantity additionally brings jointly fifty-five different photos of Siddons together with works via Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Thomas Lawrence, and Gilbert Stuart.
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Additional info for A Passion For Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her Portraitists
The Huntington. Figure 1^. , I79O. , The Harvard Theatre Collection, The Figure 12. Houghton Library. 18 A Passion for Performance for scenes of woe, and it is sometimes a great relief from the struggles I am continually making to wear a face of cheerfulness at home, that I can at least upon the stage give a full vent to the heart which . . 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.
Booth's thought-provoking essay in Michael R. Booth, John Stokes, and Susan Bassnett, Three Tragic Actresses: Siddons, Rachel, Ristori (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). For arguments about this, see Aston, Feminism and the Theatre; and Michael S. Wilson, "UtPictura Tragoedia: An Extrinsic Approach to British Neoclassic and Romantic Theatre," Theatre Research International 13, no. 3 (1987): 201-^0. See, for example, Boaden, Memoirs of Mrs. Siddons, I: 3°9> 3l6 and 2: 54- For the idea that Siddons played primarily women suffering at the hands of men, see also Booth, Stokes, and Bassnett, Three Tragic Actresses, 38-29; and Manvell, Siddons, 133.
T. archive. 14 rigure A Passion for Performance PUBLIC and Private Roles 15 "How TO HARROW UP THE SOUL": SIDDONS AND SENSIBILITY T o counterbalance these intellectual aspects of her acting, Siddons was known—particu- larly in the early part of her career—for her ability to arouse the emotions of her audiences to the point of hysteria. Popular prints highlighted the extremes of emotion on the part of both the actress and the audience. In an engraving by Thomas Rowlandson of Siddons rehearsing in the Green Room (fig.