Rebecca Potance, Librarian, Archivist, and Webmaster at the New Mexico Museum of Art reports:
For the month of February, the New Mexico Museum of Art in Santa Fe will be displaying an important book in the history of printing known as the First Folio. The First Folio was the first collected edition of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1623, seven years after the author’s death. This special exhibition is just one of many planned throughout the world commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Shakespeare’s plays have been the subject of countless works of art, and this subject will be explored further in a companion exhibition at the museum called Stage, Setting, Mood : Theatricality in the Visual Arts.
The idea of an art museum celebrating the works of Shakespeare actually dates back to 1789, when a publisher named John Boydell opened the three room Shakespeare Gallery in London. The Shakespeare Gallery was enormously popular in its time. John Boydell commissioned the leading British artists of the day to paint scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. He then employed printmakers to make high quality reproductions of the paintings in the gallery which Boydell then published and sold. Stage, Setting, Mood includes four of Boydell’s color intalgio prints from the Shakespeare Gallery.
Although the Shakespeare Gallery closed in 1805, its legacy lives on. Recently, the University of Texas at Austin meticulously recreated an online version of the first museum dedicated to Shakespeare for all to see: http://www.whatjanesaw.org/1796/rooms.php?location=NRNE