Kenwood House: Traveling Treasures

Early Spring at Kenwood House

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.

1st Earl of Mansfield (1705-1793)

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.

Elevations of Kenwood House, 1764

The famous Library

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.

Self Portrait, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1661

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.

Princess Henrietta of Lorraine attended by a Page, 1634

Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) is renowned for his exquisite portraits, and this one is among his best.

Mary, Countess of Howe, c. 1764
Many other masterworks are included in the nearly fifty paintings in the exhibition by artists such as Canaletto,  Sir Joshua Reynolds, Sir Thomas Lawrence,  Sir Edwin Landseer, and…

Portrait of Pieter van der Broecke, by Frans Hals, 1633
Joseph Mallord William Turner, A Coast Scene
 with Fisherman Hauling a Boat Ashore, c. 1803-04
George Romney, Emma Hart as The Spinstress, c. 1783-84
The exhibition Rembrandt, van Dyck and Gainsborough: Treasures from Kenwood House is organized by The American Federation of Art and English Heritage.

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