Toledo Museum of Art Shines Spotlight on Shakespeare’s Characters

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Arthur Hughes , British, 1832-1915), Ophelia ("And He Will Not Come Back Again"). 1952.87

Arthur Hughes , British, 1832-1915), Ophelia (“And He Will Not Come Back Again”). 1952.87

Four hundred years after his death, the Toledo Museum of Art is honoring the great English playwright William Shakespeare with an exhibition exploring The Bard’s band of characters, from the comedic to the tragic.

Approximately 30 paintings, prints, sculptures, illustrated books and photographs bring the beloved writer’s works to life in Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part. The exhibition opens Sept. 2 and continues through Jan. 8, 2017, in Gallery 6.

The works of art range from ancient to contemporary and have connections to more than a dozen of Shakespeare’s plays, according to TMA Mellon Fellow Christina Larson, curator of the exhibition. In addition to objects from the Museum’s collection, the exhibition contains four rare books on loan from the Toledo Lucas County Public Library and two prints loaned by private collectors, she said.

Among the works are Iago’s Mirror (2009), a sculpture by Fred Wilson which references “Othello,” and Ophelia (1865), a painting by Arthur Hughes which takes its subject from “Hamlet.”

Visitors to the exhibition also will see “William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies (Second Folio).” The Second Folio was printed in 1632 and is considered to be among the world’s great literary treasures.

“The book will be open to the last page of ‘Julius Caesar’ and the first page of ‘Macbeth,’” Larson said, noting, “The Second Folio is an important object in the exhibition because it and the other three 17th-century folios are how Shakespeare’s works became known and loved throughout the world.”

Fred Wilson (American, born 1954), Iago's Mirror. 2010.9

Fred Wilson (American, born 1954), Iago’s Mirror. 2010.9

Other works dramatically represent scenes from or characters included in “Romeo and Juliet,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Troilus and Cressida,” “As You Like It,” “Julius Caesar,” “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” “Macbeth,” “King Lear,” “ Measure for Measure,” “The Merry Wives of Windsor” and “The Tempest.”

A number of Shakespeare-related events are planned in connection with the exhibition. Shakespeare’s poems and scenes will be performed during Midweek Shakespeare at 2 p.m. every Wednesday from Sept. 7 through Jan. 4, 2017. Programs also include chamber music concerts, performances of live improvisational comedy and films based on Shakespeare’s works. Visit the Museum’s online calendar at for dates, times and other details.

Shakespeare’s Characters: Playing the Part is made possible by Toledo Museum of Art members and a sustainability grant from the Ohio Arts Council. Admission to the Museum and to the exhibition is free.

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