Gilbert & Sullivan Operetta Prints

I first saw a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta on television in the 1980s, when the wonderful Clive Revill played Koko in a BBC production of The Mikado. I was floored over how ingenious the patter song lyrics were, and how truly funny the humor was for something written a hundred years earlier. And the music itself was utterly sumptuous! I listened to as many G&S records as I could find in our local library – but since this was in pre-internet days, that’s about as far as my Savoy education went.

About 12 years ago my husband (who had been in HMS Pinafore years back) and I heard a Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society was forming right here in our town, so we checked it out right away. Since then we’ve been involved in and entertained by many of these delightful musicals; and it is apparent many others in our area appreciate the madcap plots, colorful characters and buoyant music of these operettas too.

For the Bucks G&S Society I’ve created 8 illustrations so far of their productions, and now by request of a G&S fan I’ve made 8″ x 10″ color prints of each. These full color prints are on heavy, partially-recycled paper and printed in the USA. The prints are $8.00 each and may be ordered by emailing me on my Contact page for info on shipping and payment method. A discount price of $55.00 is available for a complete set of 8 prints.

If any G&S groups would like to lease my copyrighted images for their posters and promotional items, please send me a message on my Contact page for leasing information. The 8 images are shown on my new G&S page – click HERE – and all artworks are (c) Pat Achilles.

My Gilbert & Sullivan Artwork

I’ve just completed designing the show program for the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s June production, Trial by Jury and More! This production is a melange of two comic operettas and some magnificent overtures and solos from Gilbert & Sullivan.

I’ve been pleased to paint the poster illustrations for a number of these G&S shows, which I then use on the program cover as well. It’s a pleasure to get to know the witty and comical characters in these operettas – and they are truly operettas, with some dialog but a lot of gloriously operatic sung music. I really recommend these shows for anyone who loves classical music and good theatrical humor.


My illustration for Trial by Jury and More includes the characters Mr. Cox, a hatter, and Mr. Box, a printer, who unwittingly occupy the same rented flat because one works all day and the other all night; they meet unexpectedly and both are furious with their landlord for double-dipping on the rent – until they discover they are, or were, also engaged to the same lady and neither wants to fulfill that contractual obligation! Also depicted in this cover are characters from Trial by Jury: Angelina, the tragicomically jilted bride, and the Judge, who is instantly smitten with her. Together these 1-act shows make up the operatic musical comedy Trial by Jury and More!  and it is set to open in two weeks, on Friday June 16 here in Doylestown – all info is on the website here.

With my art for HMS Pinafore I shoehorned the main characters into a tiny rowboat for comic effect: the gallant sailor Ralph Rackstraw kissing lovely Josephine and Captain Corcoran carrying his sunny Buttercup, with ornery Dick Deadeye paddling them through the waves and Sir Joseph admonishing them all to be quite polite. My husband played Sir Joseph in this show locally, and friends may see the resemblance in my rendering of him.

For Princess Ida I stood our stalwart princess front and center, and in the background her bastion for women, Castle Adamant. If you look closely you can see the brave fellows clumsily scaling the castle battlements – Hilarion, Cyril and Florian – who engage the theme of this battle-of-the-sexes play. For some elements of Castle Adamant I was inspired by the design of Marie Antoinette’s Hameau de la Reine, and you may notice I incorporated male-female symbols into the castle windows.

For the Patience illustration I painted sweet, sensible milkmaid Patience listening skeptically to the florid words of poet Bunthorne. (I enjoy that G&S often chose hilariously Dickensian character names.) Meanwhile the lovesick maidens of the village cling and swoon on Bunthorne, with even Lady Jane and her cello getting drawn into the undertow. There’s a lovely small magnolia tree in my neighborhood that I used for reference in the Patience art.

In all these illustrations I painted with acrylic paint on illustration board. If you’d like to see my sketches leading up to these paintings, I wrote about my process – Trial by Jury here, Pinafore here, Princess Ida here and Patience here. Leasing of my artwork for other productions is available, and inquiries can be made through my Contact page.


Painting Patience, part 4

I’m almost finished the poster art for the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s delightful show “Patience, or Bunthorne’s Bride” – info on times, dates & venue is here.  Click on the image below to enlarge it a bit.

patiencepartial4Now you can see the crowd of lovesick village maidens that fervently stalk the romantic poet Bunthorne throughout Act I.  I have yet to paint in Lady Jane, she’s still in pencil, but I’m saving her because she’ll be so much fun.

             Rosetti 'The Roman Window'

‘The Roman Window’

To understand the cheery harassment that Gilbert & Sullivan inflicted on British society with this show, you need to know a little about the Aesthetic Movement. This was a 19th century trend in all the fine arts, driven by the idea that life had to be lived intensely and beautifully. The Aesthetes asserted that Life should copy Art, instead of the other way around, and it prompted some hoity-toityness on the part of writers, painters, and followers of the fad.  If you look at the pouty redhead in Dante Gabriel Rosetti’s paintings, gazing longingly into the distance while surrounded by musical instruments and animal-pelt accessories, well, you’ve found the Beyonce of the Aesthetes.

To continue the plot: the sensible milkmaid Patience confides to her friend Lady Angela that she’s never been in the painful throes of love. Angela urges her to unselfishly step up and fall in love at the earliest convenience, since it’s such an aesthetic thing to do. Patience takes a pass on Bunthorne, but then Archibald Grosvenor enters – another poet, and more widely adored than even Bunthorne – and she recognizes him as the friend from her toddlerhood whom she truly loves.

But of course there’s a complication, and no one convolutes complications more completely than the Victorians.  Patience would like to fall in love as an act of unselfishness, but since Grosvenor is so perfectly aesthetic – and he humbly agrees that he is – it would be selfish of her to love him.  So true love is thoroughly thwarted by aesthetic thinking. And thuth endeth Act I.

More when I finish the painting.

Painting Patience, part 2

I’ve added some touches to Patience, and started in on the delightfully juicy Bunthorne.  In Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operetta, the poet Reginald Bunthorne is the epitome of the Aesthetic Movement, which swept England at the time (around the mid-1800s).


Over-dramatic and spouting ridiculously flowery poetry, Bunthorne is in love with Patience.  Many young English women were infatuated with these dreamy literary types, but in this show Patience, who insists she has never loved anyone except a tiny childhood friend long ago, would just as soon have Bunthorne take his affections elsewhere.  And there are plenty of maidens who agree with her, as you’ll see in the next post.