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Facing celebrity in America : Thomas Sully's theatrical portraits of Fanny Kemble

Author: Amanda Jean Olson; Southern Methodist University.
Publisher: Ann Arbor, Mich. : ProQuest, 2008.
Dissertation: Thesis (M.A. in Art History)--S.M.U.
Edition/Format:   Thesis/dissertation : Document : Thesis/dissertation : eBook   Computer File : EnglishView all editions and formats
Publication:Masters Abstracts International, 47-03.
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
This thesis examines the genre of theatrical portraiture through the lens of Thomas Sully's portraits of the English actress, Frances Anne Kemble. Sully produced thirteen portraits of Kemble between 1832 and 1865, suggesting their significance within his oeuvre. Sully radically challenged the conventions of theatrical portraiture in order to capture a "likeness" of Kemble that transcended the particularities of
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Details

Named Person: Thomas Sully; Fanny Kemble; Fanny Kemble; Thomas Sully
Material Type: Document, Thesis/dissertation, Internet resource
Document Type: Internet Resource, Computer File
All Authors / Contributors: Amanda Jean Olson; Southern Methodist University.
ISBN: 9780549924036 0549924035
OCLC Number: 454287295
Notes: Title from PDF title page (viewed Oct. 7, 2009).
Source: Masters Abstracts International, Volume: 47-03, page: 1237.
Adviser: Janis Bergman-Carton.
Description: 1 online resource (121 p.).
Responsibility: by Amanda Jean Olson.

Abstract:

This thesis examines the genre of theatrical portraiture through the lens of Thomas Sully's portraits of the English actress, Frances Anne Kemble. Sully produced thirteen portraits of Kemble between 1832 and 1865, suggesting their significance within his oeuvre. Sully radically challenged the conventions of theatrical portraiture in order to capture a "likeness" of Kemble that transcended the particularities of performance. He rejected the fundamental elements inherent to the genre, such as costume, stage set, and expressive pose, and focused instead on Kemble's face, thus producing a disembodied head floating amidst a field of expressive brushstrokes.

Kemble in some sense facilitated this "experimentation" by her hesitation to sit for a portrait, thus allowing Sully to interpret his subject on a more subjective level. This process of interpretation is illustrated in each of Sully's portraits of Kemble; however, only one work, Fanny Kemble as Beatrice (1833), achieves a complete symbiosis of both the artist's vision and appropriative style and the actress's distinctive persona.

Through the delineation of the English genre of theatrical portraiture and its transfer to America in the eighteenth century, this thesis explores the fundamentals of the genre, its participants, and Sully's use of it as a creative catalyst.

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