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 posh public personality to advertise her repute. 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. 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 occupation. This lavish quantity additionally brings jointly fifty-five different pics of Siddons together with works by means of Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Thomas Lawrence, and Gilbert Stuart.

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88) into a physically imposing and compositionally complex history painting. History painters in this period were frequently decried for the "theatricality" of their compositions, but, conversely, Siddons received praise for the artistic quality of her performances. " 69 Reynolds's portrait of her as the Tragic Muse became such an indelible icon that viewers began to see it as some sort of reality. 70 Siddons's tragic style was also fed by and contributed to contemporary aesthetic debates about the sublime and the picturesque.

L8l2. ). ©Tate Gallery, London 1998. 67 Siddons was seen as a fit object for sculpture not least because of her skill with tragedy and her position as a sort of national heroine. In her public role, she eschewed the playfulness of Garrick's persona and allowed her aura of supreme seriousness to deflect the humorous barbs of satirists. It is significant that sculptural PUBLIC and Private Roles 25 Figure 18. Figure 18. J OH ANN ZOFFANY (German, 1733-1810). d. ). t. archive. Figure 19. Figure 19. HENRY FUSELI.

59 The term has been used to convey the ways in which Siddons and her brother, John Philip Kemble, mirrored developments in the visual arts that promoted a greater sense of compositional order, generalization, and seriousness of purpose. 60 In acting, Kemble's tendency to adopt affected habits of speech, to declaim rather than evince genuine emotion, and to organize stage supernumeraries in balanced compositions was considered analogous to Sir Joshua Reynolds's exhortation that artists should "raise and improve," or generalize their compositions, avoiding specificities of dress, expression, and other aspects of "vulgar" realism.

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