A Passion For Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her by Shearer West, Mark Leonard, Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett

By Shearer West, Mark Leonard, Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett

Popular 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 repute. Her aptitude for self-presentation used to be matched via the showmanship of the various artists who portrayed her. the following 3 energetic essays--by Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett, Mark Leonard, and Shearer West--explore Siddons's existence and profession, in addition to her relationships with a few artists. striking 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 profession. This lavish quantity additionally brings jointly fifty-five different pictures of Siddons together with works through Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Thomas Lawrence, and Gilbert Stuart.

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Indulgence that replaced vulgar language and innuendo as the danger zone of contemporary theater. Women's responses to Siddons's performances reveal a sense of longing that goes beyond this masochistic wallowing in extreme emotion. In many instances, women writing about Siddons used the language of lovers: "I am as devoted to her as yourself," wrote Anna Seward to the Rev. " Years later, Seward wrote again in a similar strain, "The dejecting nature of my bodily sensations counteracted the longings of my spirit .

43 As Zara in Gongreve's Mourning Bride, she exhibited "the combining passions of love, rage and jealousy" as well as "the contention . . 44 While artists in Garrick's time could take advantage of the stasis of the "points" that he and his disciples favored, artists attempting to capture Siddons's early style had the greater difficulty of evoking her attention to detail and her rapid changes of expression. Artists endeavored to address this problem by hinting at temporality through suggestions of movement, contrasting gestures, or ambiguous expressions.

Despite great differences in her acting technique, Siddons was frequently associated with this "Neoclassicism" of her brother. 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.

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