Henry B. Plant Museum, March 5 – June 5, 2010
When the Tampa Bay Hotel opened in 1891, Hotel guests were reading Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Hardy, and George Eliot and talking about the latest paintings by James McNeill Whistler and John Singer Sargent. They congregated on the veranda and in the Grand Salon to recite the poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson and chuckled with amusement at Oscar Wilde’s witticisms. All these celebrities and their works were part of their lives. Even the great actress and femme fatale Sarah Bernhardt performed at the Hotel on her farewell tour.
"Facing the Late Victorians" is on view in the historic 1891 former Tampa Bay Hotel from March to June 2010. The show is presented by the Henry B. Plant Museum and features portraits of well-known artists such as Oscar Wilde, George Eliot, Aubrey Beardsley, George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Barrie, Kate Greenaway, H.G. Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, William Morris, Max Beerbohm, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent or Robert Louis Stevenson. The drawings, prints, photographs, manuscripts, and books – many rarely seen – belong to the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection (University of Delaware Library).
The exhibition takes us back more than 100 years to explore a phenomenon that is astonishingly modern and familiar. Like the world we know now, Britain at the end of the 19th century was a nation filled with images. Whether circulating by means of posters, books, newspapers, magazines, cards, and advertisements, or hanging on the walls of art galleries and private homes, images were everywhere. What people most wanted to see were - celebrities. A visual industry arose to satisfy the demand for portraits in every medium and to reproduce these on a mass scale. Pictures of monarchs and stage performers were most favourable, and so were portraits of writers and artists. They were as famous for their style as for their works. In turn, the portraits of Wilde, Bernhardt or Doyle provided material for caricaturists, who knew that the public took great delight in seeing the beauties - and the weaknesses. These artists became celebrities themselves thanks to the "New Journalism," which was eager to circulate unflattering images of the same poets and painters it made famous. The chase for VIPs is not a phenomenon of the 21st century, the Yellow Press was invented long before the paparazzi and the internet.
Facing the Late Victorians
Portraits of Writers and Artists from the Mark Samuels Lasner Collection
March 5 – June 5, 2010
Henry B. Plant Museum
401 West Kennedy Boulevard, Tampa
Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am - 4 pm; Sunday, 12 - 4 pm