Friday, January 17, 2014

Art, literature and theater

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
                 William Shakespeare

 American painter Thomas Sully (1783-1872) had a lifelong love affair with the theater and an intimate connection with literature. He was born into a family of actors, and the theater kindled his imagination. His reputation and popularity started with his theatrical portraits. Sully painted many characters from famous literary works.



 Take a look at this delightful picture of “Little Nell asleep”.  Dickens portrayed Nell as the embodiment of pure goodness, and Thomas Sully made Dickens’s character come to life through this painting. As you contemplate this picture you want to make sure you don’t wake up this girl.


A few days ago I enjoyed an exhibition of his works at the Milwaukee Art Museum.Sully was born in England, but he immigrated to the United States when he was nine years old. He became the most celebrated portrait painter of the nineteenth century in Philadelphia.



In this  painting a woman is sleeping with her child.  The mother’s sweet detachment from the world is complemented by the alert attitude of the baby, who seems to be inviting the viewer to enter the scene.







Another famous painting I want to share with you is “Child on the Sea Side” (1820). This painting inspired Lydia Sigourney to write a poem called “Nature never made a mother to forget”. (Today she should be writing a poem saying that "Nature never made a parent to forget. Both parents are equally responsible, aren't they?)

Can you see the adults on the background?
Oblivious to the dangers of the ocean and the forthcoming storm, they are walking away from this child.
  This painting was included in a gift-book. In those days, gift-books were popular books that combined paintings, literature and poetry. They were published at the end of each calendar year and were treated like keepsakes.








This is a picture of Little Red Riding hood.
This is a vivid picture of Thomas Sully’s beloved wife: Sarah Ann Sully. Thomas and Sarah had a blissful marriage until the day she died. However, the beginning of their love relationship was not a traditional one. Sarah had been married to Thomas’s brother. After his brother’s death, Thomas took over the family responsibilities. Eventually they fell in love with each other, but it was illegal to get married under those circumstances. Therefore, the couple had to move to New York.
 After she passed away, Thomas said he was ready to join her.
  If you want to see more of Thomas Sully's works, you can visit this interesting website.

 On one occasion Thomas Sully was asked what he thought people would do in the next world.
  He replied: “Ah, who can tell… I hope they will let me paint. I am miserable when I cannot work, and always happy when employed.”