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Actors and Artifice exhibition at the RWA

Anne Brunton and Joseph Holman as Romeo and Juliet, by Mather Brown (1761-1831)

Anne Brunton and Joseph Holman as Romeo and Juliet, by Mather Brown (1761-1831) University of Bristol Theatre Collection

Press release issued: 3 February 2014

The University of Bristol Theatre Collection’s latest exhibition, Actors and Artifice – the first Theatre Collection exhibition to be held at the Royal West of England Academy – opens this Wednesday [5 February].

It forms part of a suite of exhibitions exploring the concept of identity being hosted by the RWA which also include Oneself As Another, curated by bo.lee projects, Idols and Illusions - Photographs from the John Kobal Foundation, and Likenesses - Photographs by Judith Aronson as well as portraits from the RWA Collection.

Actors and Artifice explores visual representations of actors ‘in character’, where they take on a new and different persona, and gives a glimpse into their life on and off-stage. 

The portraits on display span more than 250 years of British theatre from eighteenth century depictions of celebrated actors such as David Garrick and Sarah Siddons to those of twentieth century household names including John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier.  They demonstrate the intricate relationship between actor and artist and the ongoing desire to capture the essence of theatre.

Some of the oil paintings reflect key moments in theatre – such as Richard III waking from a dream in which he has seen the ghosts of his murdered victims, or unexpected moments in new versions of familiar stories such as Romeo and Juliet emerging happily from the tomb.

Moreover, they illustrate the virtuosity of the actor and the magic that can happen when the work of actor, writer, designer and director come together.  This exhibition aims to capture those transformative moments when an actor becomes a 'character'.

Jo Elsworth, Director: Theatre Collection said: "We are very honoured to be holding an exhibition in the beautiful surroundings of the Royal West of England Academy.  The  opportunity to bring so many of our portraits  together for such an exhibition is a very exciting one – we hope people enjoy seeing them displayed alongside each other for the first time."

Alison Bevan, Director RWA said; "We are most grateful to the Theatre Collection for allowing us to present a snapshot of the wealth of heritage on our doorstep by showing some of the University of Bristol’s internationally renowned collection.  Visitors are sure to enjoy the rich visual feast and fascinating historic insight these works offer."

The exhibition is open 5th February – 23 March (Tuesday – Sunday) at RWA, Queens Road, Clifton; U16, SGS, UoB and UWE students free.

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