Los Angeles -- Sarah Siddons (1755-1831), the most celebrated actress of 18th century Britain, is the subject of two exhibitions presented in partnership this summer by the J. Paul Getty Museum and The Huntington Library. "A Passion for Performance: Sarah Siddons and Her Portraitists" at the Getty and "Cultivating Celebrity: Portraiture as Publicity in the Career of Sarah Siddons" at the Huntington have both been on view from July 27 through Sept. 19.
In conjunction with the displays, The Affliction of Glory: A Comedy About Tragedy, a new play by Frank Dwyer inspired by the Getty exhibition was presented at the Getty Aug. 14-Sept. 5. The play was commissioned by the Getty and produced in association with the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum.
Siddons' renown was unprecedented for a woman of her time. From 1772 until her retirement in 1812, she captivated audiences throughout Britain with electrifying performances. Her name became synonymous with tragedy; she reshaped the Shakespearean role of Lady Macbeth in her own image. She managed to achieve a status previously denied actresses, who were generally kept at arm's length by respectable society. In doing so, Siddons helped make acting a legitimate career for women, simultaneously challenging prejudices concerning female intellectual capacity.
The Getty's information line is (310) 440-7300. The Huntington's number is (626) 405-2141.
-- By Willard Manus
Southern California Correspondent