The V&A's Theatre and Performance collections chart the history of Music Hall and Variety Theatre. From early song and supper rooms to West End music halls, the birth of the Royal Variety Performance and the rise of Revue in the 20th century.
Walter Sickert and the Bedford Music Hall
Walter Sickert (1860-1942), was a painter and printmaker who immersed himself in the world of the halls in his desire to capture modern life. For Sickert the music halls were a serious subject for art – a spectacle of light, colour, movement and sound, with female performers who were a never-ending source of artistic inspiration.
Sheet Music Covers
The earliest music sheets to be illustrated by lithography were produced in this country in about 1820 and were coloured by hand. After colour lithography took off in the late 1830s, coloured illustrations could be produced cheaply in large numbers. Several artists specialised in music cover illustration and the individual style of the artists can often be recognised from the design and date.
Pantomime began as a type of traveling Italian street theatre known as Commedia dell'arte which came to Britain in the 16th century. Over the centuries it has developed into a festive entertainment that is still beloved by modern audiences. Discover more about the history of pantomime and it’s numerous well-loved stories and characters.
Theatre & Performance
The Theatre and Performance collection was founded in the 1920s when a private collector, Gabrielle Enthoven, donated her extensive collection of theatrical designs, memorabilia, books and photographs to the Museum. Since then the collection has continued to grow and has provided a home for many other significant objects and archives. All areas of the live performing arts are represented in the collections, documenting both current practice and the history of the performing arts in the UK.