As London’s National Portrait Gallery undergoes renovations, the Yale Center for British Art has the opportunity to borrow some of the gallery’s most notable portraits, including paintings of John Keats, William Wordsworth and Napoleon Bonaparte.
Two new exhibits are now open for viewing at the Yale Center for British Art. Called “Romantics and Revolutionaries” and “Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History,” the exhibits include works from the Regency period in British history, which ran from 1790 until about 1830. The shows are intended to complement each other as part of a deeper look into the time period.
“For us to be able to take such an in depth look into a period of British art makes this institution unique and quite special,” said Amy Meyers, director of the Center for British Art.
The “Romantics and Revolutionaries,” exhibit is comprised of works on loan from the National Portrait Gallery in London, which is now being renovated.
“This was the perfect opportunity to complete the National Portrait Gallery refurbishment,” said Lucy Peltz, curator of 18th-century art at the London Gallery. “Nobody wants to see paintings go into store.”
Peltz has accompanied the portraits to New Haven and is working as curator of the exhibit in the Yale Center for British Art.
The exhibit is composed of the “70 greatest hits from the Regency Collection,” Peltz said, and includes portraits of Lord Byron, King George IV and a miniature of Jane Austen drawn by her sister Cassandra.
“It’s one of the treasures of the artistic and literary world,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, associate curator of paintings and sculpture. “It’s the only known extant portrait of Jane Austen done by her sister. It’s amazing to have it in New Haven.”
Included in the exhibit are rare books and documents from the period, including “the most extravagant book ever published,” said Elisabeth Fairman, curator of rare books and archives. The book was crafted for the coronation of George IV and is decorated with rubies, pearls and gold lettering. Only one or two other known copies of the work exist.
The second exhibit, “Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History,” contains works of printmaking, an art form popular in Britain during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. During the period, prints served to capture and preserve important historical events and figures. Gillian Forrester, associate curator of prints and drawings and curator of the exhibit, said she hopes to show the historical figures as more than impersonal legends.
“It’s about showing the hero as a human being as well as a heroic person,” she said. “It also provides a context for the third-floor show and corresponds to [that exhibit’s] history.”
“Romantics and Revolutionaries” will be open until March 30 and “Hero, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History” will be open until June 1.