The art collection's strength and future lies in collecting Shakespeare-related visual art in all forms, and in collecting early-modern graphic art that complements art museums' collections and the Folger's book and manuscript collection.
Being part of a research library both for early modern European culture and for Shakespeare and the theater frees the art collection from being aesthetics-driven or artist-driven. We can complement what art museums do by developing a subject-driven visual materials collection, moving into aesthetic and "high art" considerations only when it comes to Shakespeare (an area in which we ought to be collecting as wide a range of material as possible, and an area that doesn't much appeal to art museums these days). For example, although we have some notable prints by Stefano Della Bella (1610–1664), his prints should be collected only when the subject matter is such that the print would be purchased even if the artist were unknown.
In many respects, target areas for subject-driven development of the art collection are pre-determined by the known strengths of the book and manuscript collection. For example, to complement French and Dutch political pamphlets, we can focus on visual material representing French and Dutch current events. Likewise, to complement the Trevelyon Miscellany, we can focus on acquiring the printed visual images used as source material. Sculpture, decorative arts, and most paintings are out of scope.
Priority is given to British material and to European material that helps to illuminate British civilization.
Suitable areas for subject-driven collecting of early-modern visual materials, primarily prints, include:
- City views (especially London, and places mentioned in Shakespeare)
- Costume illustrations
- Current events (especially festivals, Reformation, Civil War, Glorious Revolution, French and Dutch politics)
- Daily life (especially trades and occupations, including visual representations of the "good woman"; the "happy husband"; and other complements to conduct literature)
- Memento mori
- Numerical series (Four seasons; Five senses; Ages of man, etc.)
- Performances (including masques)
Works by specific artists will most often be outside our collecting interests because the equivalents of Shakespeare, Jonson, or Dryden in the visual arts are the territory of art museums.
However, specific early modern artists known for their book illustrations should be within our scope, regardless of subject matter, because studying these works will allow researchers to better understand the artist's book illustrations.
Artists in this category include:
- Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527–ca. 1604)
- Francis Delaram (1589 or 90–1627)
- van de Passe family (sixteenth and seventeenth centuries)
- Renold Elstracke (fl. 1590–1630)
- Abraham Bosse (1602–1676)
- Wenceslaus Hollar (1607–1677)
- William Marshall (fl. 1617–1650)
- Romeyn de Hooghe (1645–1708)
Shakespeare and the theater
- graphic material (particularly prints) relating to eighteenth-century British theater
- graphic material (particularly prints) relating to Shakespeare and his works to the present day
- graphic material (particularly prints) relating to Shakespearean actors (including ephemera such as Juvenile drama and penny-plain / twopence coloured prints) to the present day
- non-Shakespeare theatrical material that builds on the Craven Collection's strengths in eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century English theater (e.g. John Liston / Paul Pry)
Artists known for their Shakespeare work
The art collection has enviable existing strengths in original "high art" Shakespeareana, including works by the artists listed below, known for their Shakespeare-related art. Whether or not we acquire additional drawings and paintings by these artists, we should endeavor to develop book and manuscript holdings relating to their Shakespearean works.
- Francis Hayman (1708–1776)
- George Romney (1734–1802)
- Henry Fuseli (1741–1825)
- William Hamilton (1750 or 1751–1801)
- Robert Smirke (1752–1845)
- Richard Westall (1766–1836)
- John Masey Wright (1777–1866)
- John Cawse (ca.1779–1862)