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New home for Kemble painting in National Portrait Gallery

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The National Portrait Gallery is to permanently house a painting of 19th century English actor John Philip Kemble.

The painting – titled John Philip Kemble as Cato – was the last of four full-length portraits of the actor to be painted by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

It shows the actor in the role of Cato in Joseph Addison’s play of the same name, which was staged in 1811 at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.

The painting has been acquired by the gallery for a net price of £178,500, after tax concessions by private treaty sale, negotiated by independent fine arts agent Joseph Friedman.

It was purchased with help from gift aid visitor ticket donations, gallery supporters and a grant of £55,000 from the UK largest independent art charity the Art Fund.

The portrait – which will be among the highlights of the forthcoming Lawrence exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in 2010 – joins two others on public view in London, Kemble as Hamlet at Tate Britain and Kemble as Coriolanus at the Guildhall Art Gallery.