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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.

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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

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

H N. King

Charles Kean (age 54 in 1865)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related information

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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.

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

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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 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.

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