Sewell on 'First Actresses'

October 28 2011

Image of Sewell on 'First Actresses'

Picture: National Portrait Gallery

Brian Sewell's review of the NPG's First Actresses exhibition is worth a read. He seems to like the show, but, rightly, aims his weekly dose of scorn at the poor catalogue (as I did, if less stringently).

In the catalogue this unfortunate picture [Mr & Mrs Garrick by Reynolds, above] is reproduced in reverse (did no one check the proof?) - and here I must observe that this is less a catalogue than a book and useless in the exhibition, useless too as a work of ready reference, either committing all sorts of necessary information to a list hidden between the bibliography and index, or omitting it. To whom does this painting belong? (the NPG). What are its measurements? (138 x 172 inches). What is its number in David Manning's encyclopaedic catalogue raisonné? (707). Was it exhibited in the RA? (yes). Was it ever accessible to a wide public? (no). Was it ever engraved? (no). Was Mrs Garrick ever a celebrated actress? (no). What was she? (an Austrian dancer and dutiful wife). From my answers to the last four questions it must be clear that in the context of this exhibition Eva-Maria Veigel is irrelevant.

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