Victoria here. I have been eagerly awaiting this exhibition of great paintings from London’s Kenwood House. While the magnificent mansion near Hampstead Heath is being refurbished, a selection of the finest paintings from the Iveagh Bequest, usually on display there, are traveling around the U.S. First stop was Houston, and now it is in my front yard until January 13, 2013. Hurrah!!
Kenwood House, The Iveagh Bequest, 18th C.
The Milwaukee Art Museum has a home equally stunning to Kenwood, if diametrically opposed in style.
Milwaukee Art Museum, 21st C.
The MAM mounted the paintings in a stunning series of rooms, the walls colored to enhance enjoyment of the works, from delicate blues to vivid crimson. Accompanied by excellent text panels, brochures, audio guides, and catalogues, the exhibition will also feature lectures, gallery talks and book signings. The full schedule can be found here. I wrote about the traveling exhibition and Kenwood House on this blog in August, and you can read it here.
Entering the exhibition preview day, along with hundreds of other eager members, I had to put away my camera since no photos were allowed within. You will see many of the paintings below, from more official sources, until I make my very predictable way to the Gift Shop.
Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of the Artist, ca. 1665
Undoubtedly the premier painting to most viewers is this moving self-portrait Rembrandt painted about 1665 at age 60. Other outstanding paintings from the low countries include portraits by Franz Hals, Anthony Van Dyke, and Ferdinand Bol, and landscapes by Cuyp and others
Julius Caesar Ibbetson, Three Long-Horned Cattle at Kenwood, 1797
English Heritage Purchase, 1999
The painting above was acquired for the collection fairly recently because it shows the Dairy standing in Kenwood’s park, though the three cows are quite detailed and worthwhile in their own regard, I guess. After the current restoration at Kenwood, the Dairy will be open to visitors.
Anthony Van Dyke, James Stuart, 1st Duke of Richmond and 4th Duker of Lennox, ca.1636
Van Dyke, who was born in Antwerp, painted many English courtiers and the royal family during the reign of Charles I. His baroque techniques of portraiture inspired many artists. You will not be surprised to know that my favorite pictures, the ones I lingered over the longest were the English portraits, by all of the leading lights of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Mrs. Sophia Musters (1758-1819), a popular society beauty, is painted below by Reynolds as Hebe on Mount Olympus, pouring nectar for a magnificent eagle, who represents the god Zeus. The catalogue refers to this painting as the “ultimate male fantasy.”
Joshua Reynolds, Mrs. Musters as “Hebe,” 1782
I remember attending an exhibition at the Tate Britain a few years ago, Joshua Reynolds: The Creation of Celebrity, in which the following portrait of Kitty Fisher, a courtesan, as Cleopatra, was shown. Reynolds painted many women who were actresses and/or courtesans, adding to their celebrity.
Reynolds, Kitty Fisher as “Cleopatra” Dissolving the Pearl, 1759
Perhaps the most famous of the actresses who were also mistresses of prominent men was Dora Jordan (1761-1849), who was very popular on the stage, particularly in comedic roles. For many years, she lived with the younger brother of the Prince Regent, the Duke of Clarence (1765-1837). Dora bore him ten children, but in the aftermath of the death of Princess Charlotte, only child of the Prince Regent, the Duke of Clarence had to marry and an actress would never do as the potential queen.
John Hoppner, Mrs. Jordan as “Viola” in “Twelfth Night,” ca. 1785-92
Long before he became King William IV, the Duke had abandoned Dora, who died in poverty. But King William did take care of his illegitimate offspring, making the eldest boy an earl and overseeing good marriages for the others. He and his wife, Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen (1792-1859), had several children who died at birth or shortly thereafter. The ultimate successor was Princess Victoria, daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, an even younger brother of George and William.
I will return to the exhibition soon and share with you more of its contents. Until there, here are a few shots in the busy Gift Shop.
Milwaukee Art Museum Exhibition Shop
You can access the Milwaukee Art Museum Shop here