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.
Now 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.
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.