Now You Can See 'What Jane Saw'
Two hundred years ago today, Jane Austen visited a museum for a retrospective of portraitist Joshua Reynolds. And now, you can see it too.
Despite attracting thousands of visitors, there is no visual record of the show – or at least, there wasn't, until the University of Texas Department of English set to work.
"What Jane Saw" is an online exhibition of that very show, reconstructed using the museum's visitors' guide for the exhibit, newspaper accounts of attendees, and blueprints of the British Institution's exhibit space. On the site (supported by the Liberal Arts Institutional Technology Services), you can click through each painting on the wall to learn more about the portraits, their subject, and their history.
And, as the team points out in the About page, the exhibit would've been worthy of attention even without Austen's visit: "The 1813 show amounted to the first commemorative exhibition devoted to a single artist ever staged by an institution. … [Reynolds] was already hailed as the founder of the British School and celebrated as a model for contemporary artists to emulate."
It's a remarkably thorough project, headed by Janine Barchas, and it's already attracted the attention of The New York Times.
So on this rainy summer day, why not spend the afternoon in a museum from the comfort of your couch? It's worth the trip.
What Jane Saw is a project of the UT Department of English and is viewable at www.whatjanesaw.org.