Object Image

John Philip Kemble as Coriolanus

John Philip Kemble (1757-1823), actor, theatre manager, and playwright. Kemble was born into a theatrical family, the eldest son of Roger Kemble, actor-manager of a touring company. He played a wide range of characters and excelled in Shakespearean plays. His first role was Hamlet in 1783 at Drury Lane, playing opposite his sister, Sarah Siddons. Kemble wrote his own plays and acquired a deep understanding of theatre and stage craft. He was also manager at Drury Lane and later manager and part-owner of Covent Garden Theatre. Kemble retired from acting in 1817 after playing the title role in Coriolanus, depicted here by Thomas Lawrence.

Lawrence was a child prodigy and had a thorough grounding in literature from a young age - his father, an innkeeper, taught him to recite passages from Pope, Milton, and Shakespeare, and to perform them standing on a table before his customers. The young Lawrence supported his family with sketches and portraits of fashionable people at Bath, and eventually became one of the most renowned society portrait painters of his era.

No. 844

Presented by the Earl of Yarborough, 1906

Oil on canvas
Image and text © Guildhall Art Gallery, City of London, 2022

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