Mrs Pat Campbell as The Second Mrs. Tanqueray
Oil on canvas; signed
23.5 x 19.5 inches
The New Gallery, 1898
Mrs Patrick Campbell, and thence by descent to her daughter, Mrs Mervyn Beech, at which point the picture hung at the St James's Theatre.
The Sketch, 4 May 1898, illustrated p 28
The famous actress Mrs Patrick Campbell, born Beatrice Tanner, studied music at the Guildhall. In 1884, when she was nineteen, she eloped to marry Patrick Campbell, who was killed in the Boer War sixteen years later.
In October 1888 she went on the stage, and in 1893 appeared in Buchanan’s The Black Domino - but shortly after it opened she received a fortnight’s notice from the impresarios, the Gatti Brothers, on the grounds that her voice and gestures were ineffective and that nothing ‘got over the footlights’. However, she had been spotted for the lead in a new drama, Pinero’s The Second Mrs. Tanqueray, at St James’s Theatre (where this painting hung), and this ‘fragile creature of Italian origin’, as Pinero called her, had her chance. From the moment that she stepped onto the stage on the opening night of 27 May 1893, her success was assured, for, with her part- Italian beauty and her rich, expressive voice, she had a unique gift of portraying passionate and complex women; ‘the flash and gloom, the swirl and the eddy, of a soul torn by supposed intellectual emotion’, as Edmund Gosse put it.
Mrs Campbell’s last great role was as Eliza Doolittle, the flower-girl Galatea of her friend George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. She inspired admiration and loyalty; Shaw wrote to her ‘I want my dark lady. I want my angel. I want my tempter, I want my Freia with her apples. I want the lighter of my seven lamps of beauty, honour, laughter, music, love, life and immortality. I want my inspiration, my folly, my happiness, my divinity, my madness, my selfishness, my final sanity and sanctification, my transfiguration, my purification, my light across the sea, my palm across the desert, my garden of lovely flowers, my million nameless joys, my day’s wage, my night’s dream, my darling and my star’. Off the stage she was tempestuous and tactless, but good- hearted; upon it she was an actress in the grand manner. One of her more famous sayings was after her second marriage: ‘I commend the deep, deep peace of the double bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise longue’.