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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.

Portrait of Sarah Bernhardt as Marguerite Gautier in 'La Dame aux Camélias', 1891

H. Walter Barnett and Falk Studios

albumen silver photograph on cabinet card (image: 14.2 cm x 10.2 cm, sheet: 16.5 cm x 11 cm)

More images of this artwork

Sarah Bernhardt (1844–1923) was acclaimed as the greatest actor of her generation and had roles created for her by some of the finest writers of her age. A global superstar, she ultimately performed at least 70 roles in some 125 productions, appearing in countless countries, even Cuba and Samoa, and touring the USA alone nine times. She first appeared in Melbourne in May 1891, for weeks before which her visit to Australia had been the general and absorbing topic of conversation. According to the Sydney Morning Herald her triumph in Melbourne ‘was all the more gratifying because it was obtained from a critical and intelligent audience. It was evident that the play was thoroughly understood, although it was given in French.’ In turn, in the Hobart Mercury in October 1891, it was reported that Bernhardt found Australian audiences surpassed their English and American counterparts in their appreciation of dramatic art. In Australia she shot a koala at Healesville, then adopted its baby, whom she named Albertine. She also acquired a possum, called St Kilda. The marsupials, along with her St Bernard, named Auckland, stayed with her at the Australia Hotel in Sydney and were presumably later added to her menagerie, known at various times to have included monkeys and a cheetah. Bernhardt sat for Walter Barnett in Melbourne in June 1891, while on a massive tour of Australia that saw her act in a total of twelve plays, including the world premiere of Pauline Blanchard in Sydney. He photographed her in various roles here, and, for the last time, in London in 1910, by which time he was a huge photographic star and she was 66.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Purchased 2020

Accession number: 2020.39

Currently not on display

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Artist and subject

H. Walter Barnett (age 29 in 1891)

Falk Studios

Sarah Bernhardt (age 47 in 1891)

Subject professions

Performing arts

Related information

The Companion

Permanent collection catalogue

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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.

Sarah Bernhardt, 1910 by Walter Barnett
Sarah Bernhardt, 1910 by Walter Barnett
Sarah Bernhardt, 1910 by Walter Barnett
Sarah Bernhardt, 1910 by Walter Barnett

Legends

The Art of Walter Barnett 1862-1934

Previous exhibition, 2001

A National Portrait Gallery travelling exhibition.

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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.