Eliza Linley Rises Again

It was standing room only for an entertaining evening of animation, paintings, street art, theatre and fashion inspired by the mesmerising Elizabeth Linley.


The Cult of Celebrity


LEO CRANE welcomed everyone to the new Waterstones in central London. He explained how Thomas Gainsborough’s portraits of an 18th-century popstar had inspired a cult of celebrity and how through paintings, music, theatre, fashion – and now animation and street art, Elizabeth Linley continues to entertain and entrance.

Perhaps the greatest portrait of Eliza now hangs in Dulwich Picture Gallery. Director IAN DEJARDIN gave a witty account of the characters who helped the UK’s first public art gallery become the inspiring place it is today. This includes the Linley family who may well have been encouraged to add their family portraits to the collection so that their beloved Eliza could take her place alongside the great Shakespearean and Georgian performers already on public display.

The Gallery’s old master paintings have a tradition of inspiring new work. A brilliant example is Dulwich Outdoor Gallery, an independent project founded by INGRID BEAZLEY. Ingrid and street artist STIK related how they spent a year persuading the local community to get behind an ambitious programme of murals reinterpreting the Gallery’s paintings. StiK himself took on Gainsborough’s Elizabeth and Mary Linley and explained how his background as a life model helped him exaggerate a pose to find its essence in only six lines.

Eliza’s cult status came as much from her legend as an unrivalled performer as a Romantic beauty. Her theatrical impact was brought to life with BRIGHTON THEATRE’s extract from The Rivals written by Eliza’s husband Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Sir Anthony Absolute reveals to his son Jack that he is to marry Lydia, whom Jack has already wooed in secret. Real life father and son RICHARD and SAM CRANE caused raucous laughter with a lascivious descriptions of Lydia (said to be based on Eliza) and the machinations of romantic love. The extract was directed by FAYNIA WILLIAMS.

Rounding off the formal part of the evening, Leo returned to the stage to present his new animation The Lost Romance of Elizabeth Linley. This was followed by book signings, drinks and a fashion activity to give Eliza a 21st-century look. There were some ingenious designs, from "Homage to Zaha" to "Superhero Chic".

A big thank you from to the hosts at Waterstones, all the brilliant contributors and to all those who came along. Somehow, we managed to stay just the right side of the “contagious delirium” that Eliza has been known to cause…