Edwin Forrest
1806 - 1872
Edwin Forrest's dashing, athletic style won him high praise from the time of his acting debut in the 1820s. When actress Fanny Kemble saw Forrest playing Spartacus in "The Gladiator," she called him "a mountain of a man!" Forrest quickly became this country's leading actor, famous for his outsized heroes and his wealth, and over the years he never altered the formula that brought his first success. Today Forrest is remembered for his twenty-year rivalry with British actor William Macready, which turned tragic in 1849 when their competing New York productions of Macbeth put a match to a flame of nativist sentiment and caused the Astor Place riot, in which twenty-two were killed. Around 1860, Forrest commissioned Brady to photograph him in his most famous roles. Photographer Marcus Aurelius Root commended the "artistic effects, and
. . . expression" of these portraits and called them Brady's "most remarkable productions." Brady chose his impressive Imperial format, which used negatives that measured 20 x 17 inches and had to be prepared and exposed while still wet. Today the portraits of Forrest as Spartacus, and the Indian prince Metamora, show how he used different costumes to promote a single heroic image, which he embodied even when dressed for the street.

See Edwin Forrest as: Metamora, Lear, Shylock, Richard III

See Charlotte Cushman and Edwin Booth and
his daughter, Edwina

Mathew Brady Studio
Modern salted paper print from original collodion negative, circa 1860
50 .8 x 43.2 cm (20 x 17 inches)
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.;
gift of The Edwin Forrest Home