Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Supernatural Shakespeare

The Reconciliation of Oberon and Titania, 1847 - Sir Joseph Noel Paton

I went to a talk at Newcastle's Lit and Phil given by the excellent Dr Gail-Nina Anderson, one of our greatest regional treasures. Her subject was art inspired by Shakespeare, and there's a lot of it. However, not a single illustration of any of the Bard's work appeared in his lifetime, or for generations after. It was in the 18th century, with the rise of the cult of Shakespeare as England's national poet, that the artists started illustrating scenes from his plays. During the Romantic era, things got very strange. I hadn't realised quite how much artists tended to use supernatural incidents in the plays. Here are just a few of the pictures the good doctor discussed.

We begin with Fuseli, and Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth with the Daggers

Even I knew this one!

The Three Witches or The Weird Sisters, ca. 1782,

Macbeth Consulting the Vision of the Armed Head 1793–4

A Midsummer Night's Dream was a popular subject. Titanias and Bottoms ahoy.

Titania and Bottom with the Ass's Head (1788)

Titania Embracing Bottom, 1792-93

There were a lot of fairies and related creatures about in the 19th century.


Contradiction: Oberon and Titania (1854–58) by Richard Dadd

Millais ferdy.jpg
Ferdinand Lured by Ariel, by John Everett Millais 1850
I was impressed by the idea of an artist deciding to render an invisible Ariel as a flying jelly thing.

Daniel Maclise, Priscilla Horton as Ariel, 1838

1 comment:

Aonghus Fallon said...

I don't even remember the armed head! I do remember seeing 'The Fairyfeller's Masterstroke' in the Old Tate a few years back and being surprised at just how small it was: around A2 size, I reckon.