Tag Archives: fine art prints

Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part

 

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Ophelia by Arthur Hughes

Few playwrights–fewer than I can count on two  hands–can match William Shakepeare’s  popularity over time. Four hundred years after his death, he is universally revered, frequently performed and freely adapted. The compact  exhibit Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part, on display now through January 8 in Gallery 6 of the Toledo Museum of Art,  celebrates the playwright’s continuing relevance to literature, visual art and theater.

Using paintings, prints and artifacts from the museum’s collection as well as a few pieces from private collectors and from the Blade Rare Book Room of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library,  Mellon Fellow Christina Larson has curated a fascinating exhibit that traces the path of Shakespeare’s plays through time and taste. She explains:

We saw this [the 400th anniversary] as a great opportunity to honor the Bard with an exhibition.  The focus on Shakespeare’s characters came about after I had looked at Shakespeare-related artwork on view and in storage. This seemed like the unifying  theme and one that would  likely grasp the attention of the public …Overall, the exhibition is about inspiration and influence.  Shakespeare’s characters were greatly influenced by mythology and medieval tales, while his plays  and sonnets have influenced visual artists and musicians”

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Ophelia by Eugene Delacroix

Since she was limited in her curatorial choices to works available in the Toledo area, for Playing the Part Larson  has occasionally been forced to draw comparisons between artworks and plays which are not among Shakespeare’s best or most frequently produced. The never popular–and possibly never produced– Troilus and Cressida is represented, rather tangentially, by a beautiful  Greek calyx krater attributed to the Rycroft Painter. But Shakespeare’s popular and frequently performed Hamlet seems to have been a great favorite as a subject among visual artists of the 18th and 19th century and is amply represented here.  Ophelia in particular was a literary figure of great interest,  the pure  female victim being a favorite trope of the time, and is seen  in this exhibit most memorably in Arthur Hughes’s large portrait of the doomed heroine. This lushly painted canvas, the curator’s favorite in the exhibit,  is restrained and  moody and loaded with late Victorian symbolism if you know what to look for.  This is a major work by the pre-Raphaelite artist and one of the most famous in the museum’s collection. Delacroix’s small lithograph of Ophelia, from a series of 13 he created, treats the same subject in a more theatrical vein, and an etching by Eduard Manet of the actor Philibert Rauviere as Hamlet shows that interest in Shakespeare’s plays was not limited to the English.

Because Playing the Part is  a temporary exhibit, the curator was able to include work that, because of its delicacy, age or condition could not be installed in the museum’s more permanently displayed collection.

“Much of the exhibition features prints and photographs. Due to conservation concerns around lighting, this artwork cannot be on permanent view, so an exhibition is the perfect opportunity to feature the artwork for a shorter duration of time,”  Larson says.

Photographs by George Platt Lynes (1907-1955), of actors in a production of A Midsummer’s Night ‘s Dream are a particularly good example of rare artworks on limited view. Lynes, a photographer of the 1930’s and 40’s, was noted for his theatrical and fashion photography as well as male nude photographs now in the collection of the  Kinsey Institute. Another lovely and more contemporary example of rare book art is Ronald King’s unbound, handwritten text with drawings, of Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra (1979).

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Anthony and Cleopatra, unbound book by Ronald King

Shakespeare’s plays enjoyed renewed popularity across all classes in 18th century Britain as can be seen in the many  volumes reprinting and illustrating his plays in this exhibit.  For both the social elite and the newly prosperous English middle class of the time, the vogue for reprinted editions of his works illustrated their emerging patriotic and egalitarian ideals as the British Empire became a  global power.  The Boydell Shakespeare Folio, 5 engravings from which are represented in this exhibit, was emblematic of the veritable Shakespeare industry that developed during this period.

Of the many delights in this eclectic show, my personal favorite is Iago’s Mirror (2009) by African American artist Fred Wilson. This sinister, opaque-yet-reflective baroque mirror of Murano glass is a (literal) reflection on blackness with all its moral, spiritual and racial implications, and shows that Shakespeare’s timeless story of jealousy, villainy and death in Venice remains resonant for contemporary artists and audiences.

 

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Iago’s Mirror by Fred Wilson

Playing the Part establishes without a doubt that William Shakespeare found his genius while rummaging around in the cultural closet of western civilization.  The enduring relevance of Shakespeare’s art comes, not from the conceptual novelty of its premises but from the originality of its execution. He could make a threadbare story feel fresh, the unbelievable seem inevitable, the fanciful seem irresistible. His greatness still resonates with visual artists and has inspired them in turn  to create works of genius.

In addition to the works on display in this exhibit,  Christina Larson and the staff at the Toledo Museum of Art have assembled a packed schedule of related programming, from lectures to film to musical and theatrical performances. And there’s even a Spotify playlist of Shakespeare’s sonnets and music inspired by Shakespeare.   For related museum programs go here

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Julie Friedman at Harris Stanton Gallery

Julie Friedman Print

TAAE 95 artist Julie Friedman, along with fellow printmakers Charles Beneke and Joe Vanderkhove, will be showing her work from November 13-December 12 at the Harris Stanton Gallery in Akron, Ohio. 

“Ohio Printmakers showcases the new works of three noteworthy artists who explore themes of memory and loss through a variety of printmaking methods, including intaglio, screenprint, and plasterprint.”  

Joe Vankerkhove print
Joe Vanderkhove
Charles Beneke Print
Charles Beneke

 

The gallery is located at

2301 Market St.

Akron, OH 44313

 

 

 

Gallery Hours: Tuesday-Friday 10:30-5:30, Saturday 10-4

For more information: info@HarrisStantonGallery.com

 

RCP Imaging for Artists in Portland MI

Like most artists, I have found a way in the past to make pictures of my work for use online at 72 dpi that I consider to be adequate, if not inspiring. I just take them outside on a bright overcast day, hang them on the barn door and photograph with my moderately good Panasonic DMC-F260 digital camera. After a little cropping and auto color correction with my rudimentary Adobe Elements program, I upload them to my website and that’s that.  This worked reasonably well when my largest painting was 3’ x 4’ but when it came to shooting my more recent, larger pieces I have found myself running into problems. The images of the larger pieces were flat and the colors oversaturated -even for use online at a low resolution- missing the rich detail of the originals.  They also were somewhat distorted on the edges.  So I was intrigued when I heard about RCP in Portland, Michigan, just west of Lansing. They claim to produce extremely high quality images from high resolution scans using their state-of the art equipment. They offered me a free scan to demonstrate, so I decided to try them out.

I arrived at their offices and met Keith Menne, who is in charge of scanning. He demonstrated the process on a painting I had brought. The scanner, which sits in its own large room, is a mammoth piece of equipment which reminded me of a cat-scan machine.  The bed is 4 x 6 feet which would allow most of my paintings to be scanned in one operation; larger pieces can be scanned and then “stitched” together to accommodate larger work. The machine’s lens is specially ground to eliminate distortion at the edges of the image.  The scan takes place in two passes.  In the first pass, the image is lined up for framing and focus; the second scan is image capture. The equipment is designed to get maximum surface detail and nuance as well as to reduce unwanted shadows and glare, and I must say that it did make a big difference with my work. Small variations in the thickness of the paint showed up much more clearly and the surface of the painting was cleanly represented. After the scan, Keith’s co-worker Jamie re-touched parts of the picture and he then produced 2 “color strips” to get the color just right.

rcp test strip  I didn’t proceed to a full print of the piece, but it was apparent that the process represented a huge improvement in the quality of the reproduced image.  RCP can print out images on a wide variety of papers, just about anything from fabric or canvas to fine art watercolor paper.

Of course, all this comes at a cost.  RCP charges $82.50 for an individual scan, or $330 an hour on the scanner.  They can scan 8-10 similarly sized images per hour, which makes the cost about $33 to $40 per scan.  Then there is the cost of paper and output which I didn’t get into with them.  Still, the product was impressive, and I think I will make use of their services when I make the step to producing fine art prints of my work. Anyone interested in more information can go to www.rcp-usa.com or contact Keith Menne directly: keith@rcp-usa.com.

I’d be interested in hearing from other artists about their experiences with any other scanning services in the region.