The Thinking 

A Nineteenth Century Actress

January 19, 2013


THIS IS a charming portrait by the American artist Thomas Sully of the actress Charlotte Cushman. Here is some background by the Library Company of Philadelphia:

Charlotte Cushman (1816-1876) was a Boston-born actress who became the leading American stage actress and immensely famous in both America and England. Cushman was the stage manager of the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia from 1842 to 1844, and this portrait was painted during that time. She was acclaimed for her strong and dramatic performances in roles such as Lady Macbeth. Cushman was also fond of male roles, particularly Romeo in Romeo and Juliet. In this portrait, Sully captured Cushman in character as Beatrice in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. The style of the painting is direct and emotionally expressive. Upon viewing the painting, Cushman would remark that it “established in my mind as a settled fact that I am beautiful.”[2] This painting remains an example of not only Sully’s skill but also as a record of a talented and successful female artist.

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