Skip to main content

To help keep our visitors and staff safe, please book your spot before visiting.

Menu

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The Gallery’s Acknowledgement of Country, and information on culturally sensitive and restricted content and the use of historic language in the collection can be found here.

Charles Haddon Chambers

1921
Ralph Barton

ink and watercolour on cardboard (sheet: 47.0 cm x 32.0 cm, image: 47.0 cm x 27.0 cm)

Charles Haddon Chambers (1860–1921), playwright and dramatist, grew up in Sydney. Leaving school at thirteen, he worked as a clerk and then, for two years, as a boundary rider. At the age of twenty-two he settled permanently in London, where he began writing to support himself, contributing pieces to local magazines and writing London letters for the Bulletin. In 1888, Chambers’s reputation was established when his play Captain Swift was staged with Herbert Tree in the lead role. The play about a bushranger grabbed by ‘the long arm of coincidence’ was to be his only Australian-themed work apart from Thumb-nail sketches of Australian life (1891). For three decades he worked on twenty or so plays, which were staged in the West End and sometimes in New York; his outstanding successes included The fatal card (1894), The tyranny of tears (1899), Passers-by (1911) and The saving grace (1917). Handsome, graceful and a scintillating conversationalist, he was courted by society hostesses and prominent in club life. Although he was amicably married, between 1896 and 1904 he was Nellie Melba’s lover. His second wife, actress Pepita Bobadilla, later married Sidney Reilly, ‘Ace of Spies’.

Ralph Barton (1891–1931) New Yorker and Vanity Fair cartoonist, drew some of the defining images of American high life of the 1920s, including the illustrations for the novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and its successor, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes. His portrait subjects included Charlie Chaplin, Ernest Hemingway, Sigmund Freud and Lillian Gish. Cursed with depression, Barton suicided in his Manhattan penthouse at thirty-nine.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. Works of art from the collection are reproduced as per the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). The use of images of works from the collection may be restricted under the Act. Requests for a reproduction of a work of art can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

Artist and subject

Ralph Barton (age 30 in 1921)

Charles Haddon Chambers (age 61 in 1921)

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

Café and shop

On one level The Companion talks about the most famous and frontline Australians, but on another it tells us about ourselves: who we read, who we watch, who we listen to, who we cheer for, who we aspire to be, and who we'll never forget. The Companion is available to buy online and in the Portrait Gallery Store.

Charles Haddon Chambers
Charles Haddon Chambers
Charles Haddon Chambers
Charles Haddon Chambers

Suave

Magazine article by Dr Sarah Engledow, 2010

Charles Haddon Chambers the Australian-born playboy playwright settled permanently in London in 1880 but never lost his Australian stance when satirising the English.

The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

The Gallery

Visit us, learn with us, support us or work with us! Here’s a range of information about planning your visit, our history and more!

© National Portrait Gallery 2021
King Edward Terrace, Parkes
Canberra, ACT 2600, Australia

Phone +61 2 6102 7000
Fax +61 2 6102 7001
ABN: 54 74 277 1196

The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders past and present. We respectfully advise that this site includes works by, images of, names of, voices of and references to deceased people.

This website comprises and contains copyrighted materials and works. Copyright in all materials and/or works comprising or contained within this website remains with the National Portrait Gallery and other copyright owners as specified.

The National Portrait Gallery respects the artistic and intellectual property rights of others. The use of images of works of art reproduced on this website and all other content may be restricted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). Requests for a reproduction of a work of art or other content can be made through a Reproduction request. For further information please contact NPG Copyright.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency