The National Portrait Gallery in London is presenting a major new display of personal items, original manuscripts and works of art to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charlotte Brontë, author of Jane Eyre. The exhibition opens at the National Portrait Gallery today, Monday 22 February. Celebrating Charlotte Brontë 1816-1855, (22 February – 14 August 2016) explores the author’s life, creative development and professional success. It includes portraits from the Gallery’s Collection and 26 items from the Brontë Parsonage Museum, birthplace and home of Charlotte and her family. It is also one of the museum’s largest ever loans, some of which have never previously been seen.
Among the treasures are paintings and drawings by Charlotte, letters and journals, the famous ‘little books’ created by the Brontë sisters as children including the first book Charlotte ever made and a pair of cloth ankle boots worn by Charlotte. Other items include first editions of Jane Eyre, her first published novel, which enjoyed immediate and enduring popularity as well as Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography, The Life of Charlotte Brontë.
Central to the display is the presentation of new research into the only surviving painted portraits of Charlotte with her two sisters, Emily and Anne, by their brother Branwell, in the Gallery’s Collection. This explores the intriguing story of its discovery folded on top of a wardrobe, subsequent acquisition by the Gallery and its restoration.
The display also includes works from the Gallery’s Collection including the chalk drawings of Charlotte and her friend and first biographer Elizabeth Gaskell by George Richmond, alongside portraits of Charlotte Brontë’s heroes and associates such as the Duke of Wellington, poet Lord Byron and novelist William Thackeray.
Celebrating Charlotte Brontë 1816-1855 is curated by the National Portrait Gallery’s Associate Curator Rosie Broadley, assisted by Lucy Wood, Assistant Curator. Ms Wood, Assistant Curator, says: ‘This is a rare opportunity to view one of our most iconic portraits, which is on permanent display in our 19th Century galleries, alongside exquisite personal treasures from the Brontë Parsonage Museum. The display illuminates Charlotte Brontë’s life and literary career and celebrates her remarkable contribution to British literature. Anybody interested in the Brontës will find this an unmissable experience’.
Many of the loans from the Parsonage Museum as well as works from the National Portrait Gallery Collection will be exhibited in the United States for the first time at the Morgan Library in New York in autumn 2016.