Thursday, July 23, 2009

Famed siblings of the English stage John Philip Kemble and sister Sarah ~ portraits by Gilbert Stuart

Sarah Siddons by Gilbert Stuart 1787
~~National Portrait Gallery London
Contemplative and sensitive, pictured here against a stormy sky, Sarah Kemble Siddons was renowned as a great actress and famous for her portrayal of the Shakespearean character Lady MacBeth, a character she made her own.
Gilbert Stuart painted Sarah and her brother John when he lived in London, at this time about 31-32 years old. He had already achieved fame with the unveiling of the portrait "The Skater" in the 1782 Royal Academy exhibition, and with his growing prominance and prosperity, was now living in high style, in a grand house.
From Lawrence Park:

Mrs. Sarah Siddons
Born at Breson in Wales, daughter of Roger and Sarah (Ward) Kemble; and sister of John Philip Kemble. In 1773 she married William Siddons (died 1808), a bad actor, but a good critic of his wife's performances. Sarah, whose father was an actor and manager of a strolling company, went on the stage from her earliest days, unsuccessfully at first, even after her engagement at Drury Lane in 1775, where she played "Portia" to Garrick's "Shylock." In 1776-1777 the tide began to turn and she played to crowded houses at York, Manchester and Liverpool, then for four years at Bristol and Bath, 1778-1782, where Walter Scott saw her in his boyhood. In 1782 she returned to London and took Drury Lane and the town by storm. Henceforth she was the acknowledged Queen of the Stage. Johnson, Reynolds, Burke, Windham and Sheridan were at her feet. Reynolds designed her dresses for Lady Macbeth and painted her as the "Tragic Muse." In 1803 she removed to Covent Garden and in 1812 she retired from the stage.

John Philip Kemble as Richard III 1786 by Gilbert Stuart

Younger brother of Sarah, John Philip Kemble posed for Stuart for a theatrical portrait, allowing a more complicated facial expression than was usual in the common portrait of a sitter, meant for posterity. Here Kemble is portrayed as Richard III, with furrowed brow and malicious sideways look.

From Lawrence Park:

John Philip Kemble
The tragic actor; son of Roger and Sarah (Ward) Kemble; and brother of Charles Kemble and Mrs. Sarah Siddons. He was educated at the English Catholic College at Douai, where Talma was his fellow-student. After appearing with much success in an English itinerant company, he founded his fame as a great tragedian by his appearance at Drury Lane as "Hamlet" in 1783. He became manager of Drury Lane; made a Continental tour to study the French and Spanish theatres; was manager of Covent Garden from 1802 to 1808; wrote the tragedy "Belisarius" and the opera "Lodoiska" and adapted many old dramas to the modern stage. Retired in 1817, went to the Continent for his health and died in Lausanne.
hey, I like my new title/graphics. neat.

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