Actor, theatre manager and playwright, John Philip Kemble was the oldest son of Roger Kemble, who managed a touring theatre company. He followed his sister Sarah Siddons to Drury Lane, where he first appeared as Hamlet in 1783. He played a wide range of characters and excelled in Shakespearian tragedy, often appearing opposite Siddons. Between 1788 and 1796 he was also actor-manager at Drury Lane under Richard Brinsley Sheridan until he and Siddons defected to Covent Garden Theatre where he became manager and part-owner. He wrote a number of plays and had a deep knowledge of drama and stagecraft. He retired in 1817 after playing the title role in Coriolanus.This is an example of a 'half-history painting' which explored the relationship between portraiture and history painting. It shows Kemble in the leading role in Addison's Cato performing a soliloquy related to Plato's Book on the Immortality of the Soul.
Where to see this painting?
National Portrait Gallery, London
St Martin’s Place, London, Greater London, England, WC2H 0HE
If you are planning a visit to see this painting, check with the collection first. Paintings can be moved at short notice.