Victoria here, recalling several visits to Kenwood House, a beautiful white mansion sitting atop Hampstead Heath just outside of central London. Originally built in the early 17th century, it was remodeled by Robert Adam 1764-1779 in the neoclassic style with Adam’s distinctive and oft-copied interiors.
At the time, it was owned by William Murray, who was named Baron Mansfield, later 1st Earl of Mansfield. He was the Lord Chief Justice from 1756 to 1788 and is credited with major contributions to the development of English law as well as measures to end slavery in the British Isles.
In 1925, Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (1847-1927) and heir to a brewery fortune, bought the house from the Mansfield heirs as the home for his magnificent collection of art. At Iveagh’s death in 1927, he left both the house and the art collection to the nation. It is also known as the Iveagh Bequest.
Now managed by English Heritage, Kenwood House is undergoing extensive renovations and improvements, returning many rooms to their appearance after Robert Adam decorated them, probably to match the library, which has been long admired by visitors.
In 2012-13 an exhibition of works from the collection Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London is touring museums in the United States while Kenwood House is closed. Many of the works have never before been outside Britain. The treasured Rembrandt Self-Portrait was exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art briefly in spring before the whole exhibition opened at the Fine Arts Museum of Houston, Texas, where it can been seen until September 3, 2012.
I am particularly excited because the collection will next travel to the Milwaukee Art Museum (practically in my front yard) from October 12, 2012 through January 13, 2013. After Milwaukee, the collection will be shown in Seattle and later yet at the Arkansas Art Center.
The other artists celebrated in the title of this traveling exhibition include Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641) who painted numerous portraits of English royalty and aristocrats.
Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) is renowned for his exquisite portraits, and this one is among his best.