Reproducing Celebrity
: Painted, Printed and Photographic Theatrical Portraiture in London, c. 1820 - 1870

  • Tessa M Kilgarriff

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

This thesis addresses the production, dissemination and reception of theatrical portraiture in London between 1820 and 1870, arguing that these painted, printed and photographic portraits function as sites upon which cultural anxieties about celebrity – in which concepts of gender and theatrical genre had a significant role – are negotiated. At its root, I argue that a thematic analysis of theatrical portraiture’s many nineteenth-century forms shows the significance of remediation and recognition for the period’s actors and artists, thus emphasising the ways in which current scholarly divisions between visual culture and theatrical culture did not exist. In this thesis I seek to redress an imbalance in the art historical study of theatrical portraiture, which has often focused on the grand manner painting of a handful of Royal Academicians, and take issue with the perception that the ‘golden age’ of theatrical portraiture ended around 1820.

Chapter one analyses the business of producing theatrical portraits, and takes the professional archives of lithographers Richard James Lane and John William Gear as a lens through which to understand the demand for such images. The second chapter questions the assertion that theatrical portraiture fell from favour as a subject for public exhibition. Turning to the iconography of one performer, chapter three argues that Priscilla Horton harnessed the ubiquity of theatrical portraiture by including self-referential ‘living portraits’ in plays at her own theatre, thus exploiting her audiences’ sophisticated visual vocabulary. The fourth chapter considers how viewers engaged with theatrical portraits in serial publications and collections, such as Figaro in London, and argues for the importance of theatrical portraiture as a constituent part of the new comic graphic art of the 1830s and 1840s. The final chapter follows theatrical portraiture into the age of photography and examines the almost infinite reproducibility of the carte de visite.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorCatherine E Hindson (Supervisor) & Dorothy C Price (Supervisor)

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