Sarah Bernhardt - Ockman, Carol; The Jewish Museum; Silver, Kenneth E.; Bergman-Carton, Janis; Levitov, Karen; Zuber, Suzanne Schwarz - Yale University Press

Art and Architecture

Published in association with The Jewish Museum, New York  

Sarah Bernhardt

The Art of High Drama

  • Carol Ockman and Kenneth E. Silver; With contributions by Janis Bergman-Carton, Karen Levitov, and Suzanne Schwarz Zuber
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Finalist for the George Freedley Memorial Award sponsored by the Theatre Library Association

Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923) was an extraordinary performer, so much so that her name became synonymous with acting. Yet her importance extended beyond the world of theater—she was an icon of French nationalism, a target of both admiration and scorn, an artist and sculptor, and a trendsetting avatar of style. This fascinating book examines the many sides and talents of Bernhardt, from her beginnings at the Comédie Française through her international stardom. Wonderfully illustrated, the book features an unprecedented collection of images relating to Bernhardt’s life, including paintings, posters, photographs, costumes, jewelry, stage designs, self-portraits, and sculptures.

Bernhardt orchestrated a brilliant sixty-year career as an actress and entrepreneur, becoming a revered patriotic figure in her native France and a beloved star in America, where she undertook nine successful tours. Along the way she sat for the most fashionable artists of her time, became the most photographed woman in the world, and attached her name to everything from hair curlers to liqueurs. This book brings the incredible Sarah Bernhardt to life for contemporary readers and highlights her historical significance and integral place in modern culture.

Featured illustrations include:

• Art Nouveau posters by Alphonse Mucha depicting Bernhardt in her most famous roles

• Designer costumes, tunics, tiaras, and jewelry

• A human skull, a gift from Victor Hugo

• Portraits of the actress by Jean Cocteau, Félix Nadar, Andy Warhol, and others

Carol Ockman is professor in the Art Department of Williams College and author of Ingres’s Eroticized Bodies: Retracing the Serpentine Line, published by Yale University Press. Kenneth E. Silver is professor in the Fine Arts Department of New York University. Janis Bergman-Carton is professor of art history at Southern Methodist University and author of The Woman of Ideas in French Art, 1830–1848, published by Yale University Press. Karen Levitov is assistant curator and Suzanne Schwarz Zuber is project assistant, both at The Jewish Museum.


The Jewish Museum, New York (December 2, 2005 – April 2, 2006)