New Collection: Royal Shakespeare Company

Explore the world of William Shakespeare with the art collection of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

The Trial of Queen Katharine, 'Henry VIII', Act II, Scene 4, 1831 (detail) by Henry Andrews (1794-1868) / Royal Shakespeare Company Collection, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire
The Trial of Queen Katharine, 'Henry VIII', Act II, Scene 4, 1831 (detail) by Henry Andrews (1794-1868) / Royal Shakespeare Company Collection, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire

 

Founded in 1961, The Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon brings to life the works of William Shakespeare through bold, ambitious retellings of his plays. The Company's collection currently holds 4,000 items, dating back to the seventeenth century, which includes paintings of iconic actors, stage productions, artistic interpretations of Shakespeare's works, and portraits of the playwright himself.  Many of the RSC's most important oil paintings have been digitised and are now available on the Bridgeman website for image licensing. See all images from the collection.

 

 

Copy after the 'Chandos Portrait', English School. The Flower Portrait of William Shakespeare c.1820-40 by English School. William Shakespeare by Gerard Soest (c.1600-81) Montage
Copy after the 'Chandos Portrait', English School. The Flower Portrait of William Shakespeare c.1820-40 by English School. William Shakespeare by Gerard Soest (c.1600-81) Montage

 

1. The World of William Shakespeare

"God has given you one face, and you make yourself another." William Shakespeare, Hamlet

What did Shakespeare look like? Only two portraits of him were produced in his lifetime by contemporaries, which have been repeatly reworked throughout the centuries. See portraits of William Shakespeare in the collection. 

Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and was baptised a few days later on 26 April 1564.  In Shakespeare's youth, Stratford was often visited by travelling troupes of professional actors. It is said that these players may have sparked his interest in the stage.

 

2. All the world's a stage

The collection includes artistic interpretations of acts and scenes in Shakespeare's plays. Examples include scenes from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' 'King Lear', 'Hamlet' and 'Macbeth' by artists including Henry Fuseli (1741–1825, George Romney (1734-1802) and Ruskin Spear (1911-90).

 

'Macbeth', Act I, Scene 3, the Weird Sisters, c.1783 (oil on canvas) by Henry Fuseli (1741-1825)
'Macbeth', Act I, Scene 3, the Weird Sisters, c.1783 (oil on canvas) by Henry Fuseli (1741-1825)

 

 

Sir Michael Redgrave as Hamlet, Stratford, 1958 (oil on canvas) by Bryan Kneale (b.1930)
Sir Michael Redgrave as Hamlet, Stratford, 1958 (oil on canvas) by Bryan Kneale (b.1930)

 

3. Famous Faces

Great Shakespearean actors are immortalised in the oil paintings including the English stage actress Ellen Terry (1848-1928) and David Garrick (1717-79), an English actor, playwright, theatre manager and producer who influenced nearly all aspects of theatrical practice throughout the 18th century. More recent portraits include a painting of Richard Pasco, CBE (b.1926) by John Bratby (1928-92) and Sir Michael Redgrave as Hamlet in Stratford, 1958 by Bryan Kneale (b.1930). 

 

Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations 2016

2016 will mark the 400th anniversary of the death of Britain’s most famous playwright and poet.

See more images of Shakespeare's work, outside of the RSC's collection

Contact our sales team with enquiries regarding research, licensing images and clearing copyright.

 

View of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire (oil on canvas), English School
View of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire (oil on canvas), English School

 


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