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Designs from Fancy
"Designs from Fancy"

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"Designs from Fancy": George Romney's Shakespearean Drawings

November 10, 1998, through March 20, 1999

George Romney (1734-1802) was one of the most successful English artists of the late eighteenth century. Born in the north of England, where he was apprenticed briefly to Christopher Steele, Romney was essentially self-taught. In 1762 he left his family behind in Kendal and moved to London to seek his fortune there. Hard-working and adept at capturing a flattering image of his sitters, Romney quickly established a lucrative practice as a portrait painter. He had a fierce ambition, however, to achieve fame in the more highly regarded art of history painting, a category that included subjects from literary, religious, and mythological sources as well as from history.

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Early Career
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Neoclassical Phase
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Shakespearean Subjects
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Interest in the Supernatural
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Religious Subjects
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The Folger Shakespeare Library is fortunate to possess nearly 500 drawings by George Romney (1737-1802), the second largest collection of Romney drawings in America. The Folger collection has remained little known since very few of the drawings have ever been reproduced or exhibited—a situation this exhibition seeks to address.


Romney has long received recognition as a major British artist of the eighteenth century, but his drawings have remained virtually unknown. In this country it is only during the past few decades that they have begun to be exhibited and studied. This exhibition offers a new opportunity to discover the appeal of George Romney's draftsmanship, their charm, and their distinctive personality.


Learn more about Romney in the catalogue to this exhibition, "Designs from fancy": George Romney's Shakespearean drawings (1998).

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