Portraiture and Celebrity in the Eighteenth Century: The Actress as a Work of Art

Perry, Gill (2010). Portraiture and Celebrity in the Eighteenth Century: The Actress as a Work of Art. In: Paparo, Jenifer ed. Portrait. Petit genres. Vancouver: Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, pp. 36–55.

URL: http://www.contemporaryartgallery.ca/#publications

Abstract

This essay explores eighteenth century actress-portraits as examples of social and gendered role-playing and visual theatre, which can be seen to anticipate the modern celebrity portrait. It looks at the increasing demand for portraiture in eighteenth century Britain and some of the social and cultural issues and debates which underpinned its popularity. It is argued that portraits of women performers played important symbolic and metaphorical roles in promoting and advertising theatrical culture, and its perceived social value. They also represented the important symbiotic relationship between art and theatre of the period, and the glamorous (and notorious), celebrity culture with which both forms of creative activity have been associated.

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