Shakespeare and Coleridge inspire museum exhibition

Pupils from Camden School For Girls have curated an exhibition at the British Museum inspired by The Great Gatsby and other A-level English texts.

The 12 English literature students, all aged 17 or 18, chose the theme of the show, selected artworks from the museum’s prints and drawings department and then wrote labels for the works.

The exhibition is about isolation, a thread that ran through various literary works the pupils studied including Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

They then selected prints, from artists including American pop artist Ed Ruscha, Australian painter and printmaker Sir Sidney Nolan and German painter and sculptor Max Beckmann.

Some of the pupils at the school in Sandall Road, Kentish Town, chose to write creative prose labels, while others chose poems to bring the works alive,

For Beckmann’s 1918 print Irrenhaus (Madhouse), pupil Katie Barnes-Monaghan, 17, wrote a label saying: “This is a madhouse. There is no space to think, no space to breathe. No space to be alone save the palms of my hands.

“Her hands attack my body, his groans my ears. I seek the comfort of my dark, silent palms from their constant presence and nagging and tugging and invading. From the isolation that their company brings.”

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Her label was inspired by Tennessee Williams’ four-character play The Glass Menagerie, which is about an aging Southern belle desperate to find a suitor for her cripplingly shy daughter.

The exhibition was curated over five months in the pupils’ spare time and they found it a rewarding experience.

Ellen Ellis, 17, said: “The experience of seeing these images gradually unfurled from their protective cloths, amid the hush of the prints and drawings room, is not one I’ll forget in a very long time.”

It is the first time the department has asked a school to curate an exhibition.

Sarah Longair, schools and young audiences education manager at the British Museum, said: “We were staggered by the quality of work the students produced.”

n The exhibition, Isolation: From Text To Image, is being shown in the Prints And Drawings Gallery at the British Museum in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, until Sunday, September 16.