The Dramatic Works of Shakespeare by the Artists of Great Britain. As You Like It. Act II Scene VII. The Seven Ages, Sixth Age

The Dramatic Works of Shakespeare by the Artists of Great Britain.  As You Like It. Act II Scene VII. The Seven Ages, Sixth Age
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It was the influential publisher John Boydell’s (1719-1804) intention, when he commissioned the paintings of Shakespeare’s plays, to found a ‘British School’ of historical painting. To promote this grand design and exhibit the paintings he opened the Shakespeare Gallery in Pall Mall. His decision to publish the engravings based on the paintings was prompted by the twofold desire to make the paintings better known to the public and to help finance the commissioning of the paintings with the sale of the prints. However, the venture failed dismally. The lavish spending on prestigious artists, the length of time it took to produce the engravings and the war with France which interrupted paper supplies and closed continental markets to the gallery, brought Boydell close to bankruptcy and he decided to dispose of his property by lottery, but died just before the lottery was drawn. Thus after the dispersal and in some cases the destruction of some of the paintings these magnificent, imaginative engravings are all that is really left of Boydell’s great vision.