Painting Shakespeare

Painting Shakespeare, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger, opened May 13, 2017 and closed on February 11, 2018. The exhibition was curated by Dr. Erin C. Blake, Head of Collection Information Services at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

Some paintings in the collection stand out as great works of art in their own right, even though they are primarily important to the Folger for their Shakespeare content. Henry Fuseli's gothic masterpiece Macbeth Confronting the Vision of the Armed Head (FPa27) draws on his fascination with fantasy, terror, and the supernatural. Painted for the Irish Shakespeare Gallery in Dublin in 1793, it is still in its original frame.

Discover the paintings collection at the Folger—its stories, its glories, and Shakespeare’s power to inspire visual artists. From humble oil sketches to international masterpieces, this exhibition presents kids and adults alike, with a sometimes surprising, and always eye-catching, view of the man and his works.

Shakespeare was a man of words. Over 400 years after he wrote them, his words continue to be spoken aloud, spoken in sign language, printed on the page, and printed on T-shirts. This exhibition invites you to explore how Shakespeare's words can be represented in pictures, too, by showcasing selections from the collection of paintings at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

It might seem unusual for a library to have a paintings collection, but Henry and Emily Folger knew that it takes more than books and manuscripts alone to understand Shakespeare and his era. They also collected scrapbooks, posters, programs, figurines, prints, drawings, and photographs. Then they placed this collection in a building that included not only space for researchers, but also a theater and an exhibition hall.