December 1, 2010

New home for Somerset Maugham's theatrical paintings

Johann Zoffany "David Garrick (1717-79) as Jaffier and Susannah Maria Cibber (1714-76) as Belvidera in 'Venice Preserv'd, or A Plot Discovered' by Thomas Otway at the Drury Lane Theatre," 1762-63

Johann Zoffany, "Charles Macklin (c.1697-1797) as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare at Covent Garden," 1767-68

Richard Moss reports at Culture 24 that playright Somerset Maugham's collection of theatrical paintings is heading to Bath where it will form a key collection of the newly refurbished Holburne Museum reopening in May 2011. "Maugham started to collect theatrical paintings in 1912 and eventually amassed a collection reckoned to be second only in size and importance to that of the Garrick Club. Having left it on his death to the National Theatre it has rarely been seen in public. Some of the paintings had a short sojourn on display at the NT and for a time some of them were seen at the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden, which has now closed. Now the paintings, which include important works by Johann Zoffany, Francis Hayman and Samuel de Wilde, are to be transferred to the Holburne Museum which will display them when it reopens in May 2011 and at the city's Theatre Royal.

"'Bath could not provide a better home for the Maugham pictures,' said Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Holburne Museum. 'We are an eighteenth-century city and a theatrical city and the renewed Holburne and refurbished Theatre Royal will provide the perfect surroundings.' Mr Sturgis described the sharing of the works between the Holburne and the Theatre Royal as a 'happy division that will keep the collection within a short walk of each other.'"

Key works in the collection include:
•    The prime version of Zoffany’s painting of David Garrick and Susannah Maria Cibber in Venice Preserv’d which Maugham purchased from Christie’s for £29. It had once belonged to the great actor Sir Henry Irving.
•    Zoffany’s paintings of Charles Macklin as Shylock and Garrick as Sir John Brute in The Provok’d Wife which belonged to Garrick himself.
•    Francis Hayman’s painting of Garrick as Richard III on Bosworth Field (‘a horse a horse! My kingdom for a horse’) first exhibited at the Society of Artists in 1760.
•    A painting of an unknown subject, (showing two disputing gentlemen dressed in black) which until now has been unattributed but which has recently been identified as also by Zoffany.

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