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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.

Charles Kean, c. 1865

H N. King

carte de visite photograph (support: 10.5 cm x 6.3 cm)

Charles Kean (1811-1868), actor, threw in his Eton education when his mother was deserted by his penniless father, the tragedian Edmund Kean. Although dogged by his father's fame Charles built his own thespian reputation before sealing it as Hamlet at Covent Garden in 1838. He married Ellen Tree, the leading actress of her generation, and in 1848 Queen Victoria appointed him director of her private theatrical entertainments at Windsor Castle. From 1850 he also managed the Prince's Theatre, London, mounting an expensive series of innovatively-lit, historically faithful productions of Shakespeare. In late 1863 Kean and Ellen came to Melbourne under contract to George Coppin. After a month's performances in Melbourne they moved to Sydney, where they were entertained by Governor Young. In Ballarat they played ten nights in February 1864, reaping rich rewards from appreciative miners. After a series of illnesses and other vicissitudes in Melbourne they left Sydney in early July, pleased to see the back of the colonies. For Australians, however, the sober and respectable Keans provided an introduction to serious theatre.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2010

Accession number: 2010.38

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

H N. King

Charles Kean (age 54 in 1865)

Subject professions

Performing arts

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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.

Ned Kelly death mask, date unknown an unknown artist after Maximilian Kreitmayer
Ned Kelly death mask, date unknown an unknown artist after Maximilian Kreitmayer
Ned Kelly death mask, date unknown an unknown artist after Maximilian Kreitmayer
Ned Kelly death mask, date unknown an unknown artist after Maximilian Kreitmayer

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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.