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 posh public character to advertise her status. Her aptitude for self-presentation was once matched by means of the showmanship of the numerous artists who portrayed her. right here 3 vigorous essays--by Robyn Asleson, Shelley Bennett, Mark Leonard, and Shearer West--explore Siddons's existence and profession, in addition to her relationships with a couple of artists. extraordinary between them was once Sir Joshua Reynolds, whose masterpiece Sarah Siddons because the Tragic Muse grew to become an icon of this nice actress on the top of her profession. This lavish quantity additionally brings jointly fifty-five different photos of Siddons together with works through Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, Thomas Lawrence, and Gilbert Stuart.
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Extra info for A Passion For Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her Portraitists
58 However, it is not clear exactly when these changes in her acting style came about; it is likely that they were gradual and evolved with alterations in audience expectation and response. Once the theaters were larger, it was impossible to see the detail of actors' facial expressions, and therefore discussion of theatrical performance was no longer reliant on a close analysis of the "passions" and their facial manifestation. Audiences were not so intimate with actors, and the actors may have tailored their mode of performance accordingly.
For her effect on men, see, for instance, the letter from Maria Siddons to Sally Bird, 8 April 1798, referring to Siddons's performance of Mrs. Haller in The Stranger: "even men sob aloud" (Knapp, Artist's Love Story, 33). Anna Seward to the Rev. Dr. , The Swan ofLichfield: A Selection 3» 51. 52. 53. 54- 55- 56. 57. 58. 59- 60. A Passion for Performance from the Correspondence of Anna Seward (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1936), 68-69. For details of the importance of women as consumers in the theater, see Brewer, Pleasures of the Imagination-, Shearer West, "Women and the Arts in the Eighteenth Century," in La mile, et la transmission des valeurs culturelles au bas moyen age et aux temps modernes (Brussels: Credit communal, 1996), 193 — 205; Leo Hughes, The Drama's Patrons: A Study of the Eighteenth-Century London Audience (Austin: University of Texas Press, I971)- For a contemporary example, see An Address to the Ladies on the Indecency of Appearing at Immodest Plays (London: R.
Her critics came to deny her talent for comedy, but throughout her life, she was recognized for a vivacious sense of fun in private life. As one friend claimed, "Mrs. Siddons . . could be infinitely comic when she pleased,"65 although her public never accepted an image of their heroine so opposed to their conception of her as the Tragic Muse. As discussed above, early descriptions of her tragic style stress the detail with which she observed and conveyed the emotions of her characters and effected a transition between contrasting passions.