Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums, known collectively as GLAMs contain many examples of the way in which Shakespeare has inspired creative people ever since his plays and poems were written. Paintings may be inspired by either a great performance of a play or by Shakespeare’s powerful words, characters and scenes. Writers have adapted Shakespeare’s plays into novels, television programmes and films. And there are representations of Shakespeare in all media from music and ballet to sculpture and glass. To me one of the greatest benefits of the internet is the increasing number of websites where, free of charge, people are able to gain access to both images and content relating to collections from around the world that remind us of our common humanity and the power of the imagination.
The Art UK website is a fantastic resource for paintings held in public collections in the UK. To celebrate Shakespeare’s Birthday they have published an edition of their newsletter containing seven paintings inspired by Shakespeare from the cerebral, almost monochrome portrait by Blake to one of my favourites, the wonderfully eccentric Apotheosis of Garrick in which the great actor is raised to Mount Olympus where he is greeted by Shakespeare. Content Creator Molly Tresadern does a great job of putting the paintings in context and helping you look at them in detail. There are also lots of links to other bits of this brilliant site.
A more quirky take on things inspired by Shakespeare is to be found on Culture 24’s Museum Crush site, another wonderful website. They’ve just published a lovely article in which Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Collection Librarian Mareike Doleschal picks some of her favourites in the Trust’s eclectic collection. The Secret Life of Shakespeare’s Books examines some of the intriguing and unexpected stories behind the historic books and documents cared for by the Trust.
Both these sites contain loads of links to fantastic short articles where you can happily spend an hour or two, and bring together items you’d never be able to see in person. Have fun browsing!