Ira Aldridge: Theatrical Trailblazer

Drawing of Ira Aldridge
Taras Shevchenko (Ukrainian, 1814–1861)
Italian and white pencil on stained paper, 1338 × 1058 in.
While in Russia Aldridge had his portrait drawn by the influential Ukrainian poet and artist Taras Shevchenko. The two became acquainted through their mutual friend Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace and Anna Karenina. This sort of “celebrity meets celebrity” interaction was not uncommon. For instance, after encountering Aldridge in Paris, Danish fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen later wrote: “We shook hands and exchanged a few politenesses in English. I admit that it pleased me to have one of Africa’s gifted sons hail me as a friend.”

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