This painting is part of the Painting Shakespeare exhibition, on view May 13, 2017 – Feb 11, 2018.
Curated by Erin Blake
How do you represent the man named Shakespeare if you've never seen him with your own eyes? Umberto Romano (1905-1982) reinterpreted the iconic Chandos portrait through the lens of modern art, surrounding the man with an abstract field of swirling paint in Shakespeare Recites Shakespeare.
In A Catalogue of Paintings in the Folger Shakespeare Library, William L. Pressly notes how Shakespeare’s “body dissolves into the background at the edges, and, reflecting the influence of abstract expressionism, drips of brown and orange-red paint energize the black portions of the surface.”
Romano created this portrait as part of a series he called "Great Men,” which included the prophet Muhammad (circa 570–632), artist Rembrandt van Rijn (1606–1669), and musician Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970). Shakespeare is one of five writers depicted; the other four are Dante, Cervantes, Voltaire, and Dostoevsky.
This painting appears in the “Imagining Shakespeare” section of the Painting Shakespeare exhibition.