Thursday, May 19, 2011

My Favorite Regency Era Artwork

by Susanna Ives

Several years ago, I agreed to help the Regency expert extraordinaire Nancy Mayer start her Regency Researcher web site. Little did I know then the cyber adventure I would embark upon. Nancy supplied the information, but it was up to me to design and maintain the site, as well as find images illustrating the content. I became like a WWW spelunker, crawling about the Internet Archive, Google Books, and various art sites searching for lesser known Regency images. So I decided to write this month’s blog post on some of my favorite finds.

One afternoon, after we had launched the very first pages, I met Nancy at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. As we were strolling through the various rooms, Nancy taps my arm. Her eyes lit up as she pointed to a portrait of a handsome man on the wall. “It’s Mr. Darcy,” she gasped. She stood there for several minutes, mesmerized by the man in the painting. I realized I had to put this Mr. Darcy on her website. In the gift shop I tried in vain to find a poster, postcard or something about the painting. Nothing. Ugh! Then I got tenacious (obsessed). There had to be something about this painting somewhere on the internet. For heaven sakes this is the digital age. Off and on, I searched for two weeks until one night I finally located the image below.

Mr. Darcy a.k.a. Abraham Garland Randall was painted by the American painter James Frothingham. Randall lived from 1804 to 1878. He was a lawyer in Massachusetts.

One evening as I lay in bed reading to my daughter from a book about color published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I ran across this painting entitled "Young Woman Drawing" (1801).

To me, what is so unique about this painting is that it is a self-portrait the French artist Marie-Denise Villers. While most portraits of the day seem stiffly posed, I get a real sense of the artist in this work. Although over two hundred years separate us, I can relate to this woman hunched over her work, her hair sloppily drawn back with a pencil stuck in her bun. Here is another painting by Marie-Denise Villers that I think also captures that casual intimacy.

I can’t remember how I found Jacques-Laurent Agasse, but I love his work of English street life. He was a Swiss born artist who became known for painting animals. He moved to England in 1802.

I’ve tried to locate every illustrated book of Jane Austen’s on Google Books. Yet, the pictures in her books just don’t do it for me. They lack life. In my own research, I ran across a series of books by Mary Russell Mitford and illustrated by Hugh Thompson. The books contain many wonderful, albeit romanticized, illustrations of Regency country life. I’ve put a sample of the illustrations on Nancy’s website. But if you are interested, you should check out Our Village by Mitford on Google Books.

And, finally, I will leave you with a humorous picture entitled "Comfort" that I found while digging through the image archives at the New York Public library. Enjoy!


Anonymous said...

What a lovely selection of images.

Wendy Soliman said...

Great pictures. I shall definitely check out the website. It looks fascinating.

Claire Robyns said...

Ooh, yes, I like Mr Darcy. Beautiful painting, thanks for sharing.

Susanna Ives said...

Thanks y'all!

Taryn Kincaid said...

Just beautiful.

Patricia Preston said...

Beautiful pictures!

Stevie Carroll said...

Lovely pictures there. Shall definitely investigate the artists, thanks.