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London attractions: Explore The First Actresses at the National Portrait Gallery

Published: Thursday 29th of September 2011

Art and theatre enthusiasts looking for things to do in London could visit The First Actresses Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

The exhibition, running until January 8th, explores the fascinating and controversial relationship between art, gender and theatre in eighteenth century England.

It investigates the way actresses used portraits to promote their reputations, deflect scandal and increase their popularity and professional status.

The exhibition will also look at how women performers were key in the celebrity culture of the time thanks to gossip-fuelled theatre and art reviews, satirical prints and biography.

Acting was an extremely controversial profession for women to go in, with the moral and sexual decorum of women on stage being a heated topic of debate in the eighteenth century, fuelled by the traditional association between actress and prostitute.

Combining renowned masterpieces with newly discovered works, the display includes pieces by Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough, John Hoppner and James Gillray.

Highlights include Reynold's famous portrait of Sarah Siddons as the Tragic Muse, Hogarth's the Beggar's Opera and Gainsborough's portrait of Elizabeth Linley.

Get free entry to over 55 top London attractions with a London Pass.

Posted by Michael Edwards
 

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