Commemorating the two hundredth anniversary of Frankenstein—a classic of world literature and a masterpiece of horror—a new exhibition at the Morgan shows how Mary Shelley created a monster. It traces the origins and impact of her novel, which has been constantly reinterpreted in spinoffs, sequels, mashups, tributes and parodies. Shelley conceived the archetype of the mad scientist, who dares to flout the laws of nature, and devised a creature torn between good and evil. Her monster spoke out against injustice and begged for sympathy while performing acts of shocking violence. In the movies, the monster can be a brute pure and simple, yet he is still an object of compassion and remains a favorite on stage and screen.
For the first time it will be possible to view art and artifacts (including comic books, film posters, publicity stills, and movie memorabilia) that explain how Frankenstein caught the popular imagination in the course of two hundred years. Portions of the original manuscript will be on display along with historic scientific instruments and iconic artwork such as Henry Fuseli’s Nightmare, a six-sheet poster advertising the Boris Karloff movie in 1931, and the definitive portrait of the author. The modern myth of Frankenstein is based on a long cultural tradition, also recounted in the exhibition with a vivid display of books, manuscripts, posters, prints, and paintings.
It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200 is a collaboration between The Morgan Library & Museum and The New York Public Library.