• The 'Flower' Portrait of Shakespeare

    Early 19th century oil painting on a wooden panel over a mediaeval Italian painting of the Madonna and Child with St John

    Presented by Mrs C. Flower, 1895

    There are only two portraits of Shakespeare which were produced in the lifetime of his contemporaries. They are the monument at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon and the engraving by Martin Droeshout which appeared as the frontispiece of the First Folio in 1623. The 'Flower' Portrait was once believed to be the original portrait from which the Droeshout engraving was copied. It is now thought to be based on that engraving. Its actual date is unknown but analysis of the paint shows that some of it cannot date to earlier than 1809, and probably some time later.

  • The Shepherd's Cot, The Winter's Tale, Act IV scene 3

    The Shepherd's Cot, The Winter's Tale, Act IV scene 3

    William Hamilton RA (1751-1801), 1787

    Oil on canvas

    Presented by Dr T S R Boase, MC, DCL, FBA, 1968

    This is one of 23 paintings that the artist donated to the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery. On display were 200 paintings inspired by Shakespeare's works, especially commissioned by John Boydell (1719-1804). A wealthy publisher, Boydell planned to revive English art by creating a new style whilst paying homage to Shakespeare.

    Although it was a brief success the collection eventually almost bankrupted Boydell. A lottery to win the gallery revived his fortunes but the winner auctioned the artworks.

  • The Return of Othello, Othello, Act II scene 1

    The Return of Othello, Othello, Act II scene 1

    Thomas Stothard RA (1755-1843), c.1789

    Oil on canvas

    Presented by Charles E Flower, Esq

    This image shows Othello returning from Cyprus after defeating the Turks at sea. Desdemona has travelled from Venice to meet him, along with Iago and Emilia.

    This was one of the main original works in the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery which opened in Pall Mall in 1789. Today no more than 40 of the original works can be identified. A number of the Boydell works are now in our collection.

  • The Trial of Queen Katharine, Henry VIII, Act II scene 4

    The Trial of Queen Katharine, Henry VIII, Act II scene 4

    Henry Andrews (fl 1830-1860)

    Oil on canvas

    Presented by Miss Ada Rehan, 1906

    The painting shows Charles Kemble as Henry VIII and his daughter Fanny Kemble as Queen Katharine. Cardinal Wolsey was played by Charles Young. It is believed to have been painted during Kemble's management of Covent Garden, on 21st October 1831. It is unusual as it shows the relationship between actors and the audience.

    Paintings and sketches can provide an important record of performances on stage before the popular use of photography in the late 19th century. They provide an insight into different costume and acting styles, and how approaches to stage and set design have changed through history. Some provide detail and illustrate moments that have been described by critics.

  • Lewis Waller as Henry V

    Lewis Waller as Henry V

    Arthur Hacker RA (1858-1919), 1900

    Oil on millboard

    Presented by Miss Mary Anderson

    This image shows the actor Lewis Waller as Henry V. Waller was born in Spain in 1860. His first stage appearance in London was at Toole's Theatre in 1883. He formed his own company in Haymarket around 1895 where his performance of the part of Henry V, in his remarkable production of that play, was his most memorable. In 1908 and 1911 he revived the role in the Benson Company at Stratford-upon-Avon.

    Many actors had their portraits produced in the costume of the characters, often lead roles, for which they were famous. Sometimes the portrait showed a moment from the play, but just as frequently there is no obvious scene to which the portrait can be linked.

  • Portrait of Sally Booth (1793-1867) as Juliet

    Portrait of Sally Booth (1793 - 1867) as Juliet

    English School, c.1820

    Oil on canvas

    Presented by Sir Edgar Flower, 1881

    In this scene Juliet is preparing to take the potion which will induce a death-like sleep letting her avoid marriage to her cousin Paris. The portraits in our collection demonstrate a range of styles and techniques relating to the artistic fashions of the time they were painted. Here Juliet's clothing and hair-style are clearly in the fashion of the day rather than attempting to be Mediaeval or Elizabethan in style.

    This picture is on long-term display at Stratford Town Hall.

  • Hamlet, Act V scene 2

    Hamlet, Act V scene 2

    Victor Muller (1830-1871) 1870

    Oil on canvas

    Muller worked mainly on portraits and the literary genre, including several Shakespearean subjects, mostly from Hamlet. In this picture, painted in Munich, Hamlet and Horatio watch Ophelia's burial procession approach. As well as portraying actors in certain roles artists have also drawn on their imagination to depict scenes either as unique pictures in their own right, as illustrations for books, or as commercially reproduced images.

    Shakespeare's tragic plays provide a wealth of material to inspire artists either through popular characters or famous scenes. Interpretations of characters such as Hamlet show different perceptions of appearance through history.

  • Macbeth, Banquo and the Weird Sisters, Macbeth, Act I scene 3

    Macbeth, Banquo and the Weird Sisters, Act I scene 3

    Attributed to Samuel John Egbert Jones (fl 1820-1845), school of Heinrich Fuseli

    Oil on canvas

    Presented by Dr E Martlett Boddy, 1900

    The supernatural theme arises in many of Shakespeare's plays. These range from characters such as Macbeth's 'Weird Sisters', who conjure up visions of the future (pictured), to ghosts who appear to warn, threaten or influence living characters. These latter include Hamlet's father, Julius Caesar and Richard III's enemies.

    Characters such as Prospero have learned to use magic to control their environment while others are inherently magical creatures. Those such as Ariel or Titania are invented by Shakesperare, but some such as Puck and these witches are taken from local mythology. Many others are figures from classical mythology, the gods of ancient Greece and Rome.

  • Falstaff disguised as Herne discovered at Midnight with Mrs Ford and Mrs Page, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V scene 5

    Falstaff disguised as Herne discovered at Midnight with Mrs Ford and Mrs Page, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act V scene 5

    Robert Smirke RA (1752-1845)

    Oil on canvas

    Shakespeare's comedies have been as rich a source of inspiration as his tragedies. The choice of scenes depicted is extremely varied, with The Merry Wives of Windsor in particular being well represented. Some famous pictures, such as 'Falstaff at Herne's Oak', have helped to influence popular perception of a character's appearance. Other images show scenes that are not consistently popular and which are even cut from productions.

  • The Tempest, Act I scene 1

    The Tempest, Act I scene 1

    Philippe Jacques de Loutherbourg, RA (1740-1812), 1793

    Oil on canvas

    Presented by Sir Peter Hoare, 1947

    This image shows a scene described at the beginning of The Tempest. Ariel has conjured up a storm on Prospero's orders and Ferdinand swims ashore. Shakespeare's plays often have sections where a character describes events off-stage. Sometimes information is being given while at other times events are described which would be difficult to portray on stage, such as a shipwreck.

  • Romeo and Juliet with Friar Lawrence, Romeo and Juliet, Act II scene 6

    Romeo and Juliet with Friar Lawrence, Romeo and Juliet, Act II scene 6

    Mather Brown (1761-1831)

    Oil on canvas

    Presented by A Macmillan, Esq

    This image shows Romeo and Juliet with Friar Lawrence. According to Redgrave's Dictionary of the English School 1874 Brown painted Joseph George Holman (1764-1817) and Miss Louisa Brunton as Romeo and Juliet.

    Comedies and tragedies, plays based on British and classical history, and romances, have all inspired artists' work. Particular scenes come in and go out of fashion. The sentimentality of 'Hubert and Arthur' from King John was once seen as representative of the historical works, yet the play itself is seldom performed.

  • The Arrival of the Princess of France, Love's Labour's Lost, Act II scene 1

    The Arrival of the Princess of France, Love's Labour's Lost, Act III scene 1

    Thomas Stothard RA (1755-1834)

    Oil on canvas

    Presented by the Earl of Effingham, 1916

    In this image the Princess of France arrives in Spain on a diplomatic errand. She is greeted by King Ferdinand who, along with his lords, has just sworn to spend three years studying, fasting and abstaining from the company of women. The scene is depicted on stage in the play but this painting is not related to a particular production or individual actors. What it does do is indicate the style of costume which the viewer would expect to see, in this case a version of contemporary fashions.

  • Richard III, Self portrait 1984

    Richard III, Self Portrait, Stratford 1984

    Antony Sher (b.1949), 1984

    Oil on canvas

    Loaned by Antony Sher, 1984

    This unique image of Antony Sher as Richard III is a self-portrait. It gives us an impression of the psychology of an actor in a leading role, a unique insight into how Sher interpreted the character.

    The art collection includes a number of portraits which provide an insight into how characters have been portrayed over time. They capture the stance, costume and attitude of the actor playing a role and many date from a time before photography was commonly used.

    © Antony Sher

  • Arthur Bourchier as Shylock

    Arthur Bourchier as Shylock

    Charles Buchel (1872-1950), 1906

    Oil on canvas

    Presented by Arthur Bourchier, 1908

    Bourchier was the founder of Oxford University Dramatic Society. He never acted at the Shakespeare Memorial in Stratford but wished to be associated with the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre and donated this work of himself in one of his best known roles. He also took other major parts such as Macbeth, Henry VIII, Brutus, Bottom and Sir Toby Belch as well as managing theatres and experimenting with Shakespeare on film.

    Under our collecting policy we aim to collect two- and three-dimensional visual art that relates either to the work of Shakespeare or more usually the work of the Royal Shakespeare Company, usually through gift or bequest but occasionally by purchase. We also consider accepting loans of particular items for short- or long-term periods.

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Teaching Shakespeare