“All the world’s a stage” at a glorious new exhibition at Compton Verney Art Gallery commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Mandy D. Charles is charmed and enchanted…
Set in 120 acres of idyllic parkland, Warwickshire’s Compton Verney is a beautiful Georgian mansion that has been sympathetically restored as an award-winning art gallery. In collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Compton Verney is commemorating the 400th anniversary of the bard’s death on 23rd April by mounting an ambitious and innovative exhibition that brings all the drama of the theatre into the art gallery space.
This remarkable show, taking place just nine miles away from Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon, features more than 70 works that highlight why his plays are as relevant today as they were over 400 years ago, including paintings, drawings, engravings, woodcuts and photographs. The new Shakespeare in Art: Tempests, Tyrants and Tragedy exhibition imaginatively depicts why he and his work remain a vital source of inspiration to artists. There’s something for everyone in this inspiring, highly theatrical exhibition, whether you are familiar with Shakespeare’s works or not. “It connects to that childlike sense in us of wanting to believe,” says the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Director of Design, Stephen Brimson Lewis.
This beautifully curated and ingeniously designed exhibition immerses the viewer into the world of Shakespeare’s plays through arranging them over eight ‘acts’. You can see the RSC perform four of the works featured at Stratford this year – The Tempest, Hamlet, King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The other two plays represented here are Macbeth and Henry VIII. The exhibition’s curator, Antonia Harrison has sourced art works from major collections throughout the country, including the RSC’s own rarely publically displayed art collection.
Several iconic representations are on display, including John Singer Sargent’s imposing portrait Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s The Death of Lady Macbeth, but Shakespeare’s enduring influence on contemporary artists is also represented by Akua from photographer Tom Hunter and the new, specially commissioned artwork Ophelia’s Ghost by Davy and Kristin McGuire.
“In terms of the way we work, it has been a markedly different experience for us, both in the opportunity to pool our expertise with the RSC, but also in using a more theatrical design approach and employing new multimedia and sound techniques,” says Harrison. Designing for an exhibition for the first time, Brimson Lewis intensifies the theatricality of the artworks by locating them within stage sets and employing multi-media and multi-sensory elements to atmospheric and magical effect.
Shakespeare in Art: Tempests, Tyrants and Tragedy runs until June 19th 2016. To find out more and book tickets, visit Compton Verney.
Mandy D Charles works in the Visitor Engagement Department at The National Gallery in London. She also contributes to the arts and entertainment guide, Time Out.