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March 27 , 2009

Henry Irving and Bastien-Lepage


In 1880 the French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage was one of the rising starts of modern art and a fi ne portraitist. Henry Irving on the other hand was acknowledge as the fi nest Shakespearian actor in England. The two met at a dinner in the Beefsteak Room one evening and set out to create what would become one of the best unfi nished works in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London. This story, written by a portraitist, brings out the inevitable tensions that exist between the aims of the artist and the sitter. The impact of Irving’s need to maintain a public persona and Bastien-Lepage’s need to have a success in England are exposed.

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