He studied at Clapham School of Art from 1934 to 1938, being awarded a London County Council three-year intermediate scholarship in 1935. In 1938 he accepted a Royal Exhibition and studied at Royal College of Art before conscription into the Army Service Corps. He served with the BEF in France before he was evacuated at Dunkirk. On demobilisation after the war he continued at the RCA until 1948.
Chamberlain taught at Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts and Bromley College of Art, ending as principal lecturer at Camberwell until his death in 1984. His visiting lectureships included Sheffield, Colchester, Bournemouth and Ravensbourne. He was also a commercial illustrator producing graphic work for Phoenix House, The Bodley Head, National Savings and Jonathan Cape.
The art historian David Buckman recalled a conversation with Chamberlain’s widow Heather Copley: 'When I interviewed her several years ago, she regretted that he had not been elected a Royal Academician, having been on the nomination list for many years. Outspoken and idealistic, however, Chamberlain was not one to say the right things and keep in with people who mattered'. His work is held in the permanent collections of The Tate, The Royal Academy, The Guildhall Gallery and both Swindon and Southampton City Art Galleries.
Chamberlain exhibited widely, was respected in the field and was known for his scenes of London. He stated, ‘I have made many studies in this area where I live, in the belief that one must learn thoroughly something about a particular and loosely limited area within one's experience. I don't believe it is possible to make much of a statement about anything unless one knows one's subject very well indeed’ (letter of 3 April 1955).