Steve and his wife Susie dropped into the opening of a new exhibition celebrating the life of Jane Austen on Friday 12 May.
A rarely seen 1869 watercolour portrait of Jane Austen by James Andrews is a late addition to the exhibition The Mysterious Miss Austen, which runs until 24 July at The Gallery in Winchester Discovery Centre.
The work is currently in a private collection and the likeness that will feature on the new £10 note from July 2017 is based on this portrait.
2017 marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death, and Hampshire Cultural Trust is coordinating a yearlong series of events to celebrate her creativity and talent, with the centrepiece being The Mysterious Miss Austen Presented in partnership with Jane Austen's House Museum.
Jane Austen died in Winchester – in College Street where a plaque marks the house – in 1817. She had come to the city after her health failed.
Steve Brine says; "The exhibition explores Jane's life, work and her relationship to Hampshire and is really special. The county was not only Jane Austen's birthplace of course but its people, landscape and the society in which she moved provided inspiration for her novels, classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility.
"The HCT have coordinated a fantastic exhibition which is well worth a visit for fans and non-fans; there's something for everyone including some lovely old paintings of Winchester which I especially enjoyed."
The centrepiece of The Mysterious Miss Austen are the six portraits of Jane. The pencil and watercolour sketch by Cassandra Austen (circa 1810) and the hollow-cut silhouette by an unknown artist from circa 1810-15 will be familiar to many from their usual home in the National Portrait Gallery, London. However the other portraits, all from private collections, will probably not be known to visitors: one has not been seen in public for more than 40 years.
Among other treasures on show in The Mysterious Miss Austen will be the manuscript of an alternative ending to her final novel, Persuasion, in her own hand, on loan from the British Library.
The Mysterious Miss Austen is jointly curated by Louise West, former curator of Jane Austen's House Museum and chair of the Jane Austen 200 working group, and Professor Kathryn Sutherland from Oxford University, a leading Austen scholar.
Louise West says "The bringing together for the first time of 6 portraits of Jane Austen will, we hope, provoke reaction and excite argument, about the mysterious Miss Austen. This is a new way of exploring Austen's identity and we are thrilled to be sharing this opportunity with the public."
Professor Kathryn Sutherland says "If you think you know Jane Austen, think again! Jane Austen is our most intimate writer – the writer we each feel speaks to and for us – and yet we know so little about her. What we do know is built upon ambiguities, contradictions and paradox: even how she looked is something of a mystery. 'The Mysterious Miss Austen' will celebrate and challenge the reputation of our best-known, unknowable writer."
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