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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

In the mind's eye

Jane Austen’s physical descriptions of her characters are famously sparse. But if you ask me, Anne Elliot, Emma Woodhouse, and Elizabeth Bennet are definitely brunettes, while Fanny Price resembles the actor Mia Wasikowska, except paler. Don’t ask me to find textual support for any of this: I just have a feeling.

Like so many other Janeites, the British artist Daisy Harcourt seems to have her own mental pictures of Austen’s heroines, and the results can be seen through Friday at Weald Contemporary, a pop-up gallery whose latest exhibition is on display in Arundel, in the southern English county of West Sussex.

As best I can tell from the rather confusing online descriptions, Harcourt’s show, “Women and Word,” seems to feature portraits of literary characters (Molly Bloom, Jo March), classic authors (Daphne du Maurier, Mary Shelley), and contemporary writers and artists (sculptor Jo Sweeting, Oxford University English professor Laura Varnam). Among the subjects are Austen herself and six of her heroines.

Harcourt has a dreamy, primitivist style that I find rather appealing (click here to see at least some of the work in the show). Harcourt’s Anne Elliot, with the Cobb at Lyme in the background, is especially lovely, as is her windswept du Maurier.

But if “Frances Price,” that long-necked creature with the sleek ponytail, is meant to be the heroine of Mansfield Park—and, evidently, she is--then I . . . disagree. Maybe Mia Wasikowska wasn’t available for a sitting.


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