Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London,
The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) presents Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London, featuring about 50 masterpieces from this magnificent painting collection, many of which have never traveled to the United States. The exhibition is on view February 14 through May 19, 2013 and is organized by the American Federation of Arts and English Heritage.
This collection, known as the Iveagh Bequest, resides at Kenwood House, a neoclassical villa in London that Scottish architect Robert Adam remodeled in the eighteenth century. Set in beautiful landscaped parkland in the midst of Hampstead Heath, Kenwood House is one of the most magnificent visitor attractions in London. This elegant villa, houses a superb collection of paintings that includes masterpieces by Rembrandt van Rijn, Johan Vermeer, Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Gainsborough, as well as the Suffolk collection of rare Jacobean portraits.
Donated to England by Edward Cecil Guinness, (1847–1927), the first Earl of Iveagh and heir to the Guinness Brewery, the collection was shaped by the tastes of the Belle Époque—Europe’s equivalent to America’s Gilded Age—when Lord Iveagh shared the cultural stage and art market with other industry titans such as the Rothschilds, J. Pierpont Morgan, and Henry Clay Frick. Lord Iveagh’s purchases, made mainly between 1887 and 1891, reveal a taste for the portraiture, landscape, and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish works that could typically be found in English aristocratic collections.
Among the works by Dutch and Flemish masters in the exhibition is
Rembrandt’s sublime Portrait of the Artist (ca. 1665), one of the artist’s last self-portraits and one of only a few of his many self-portraits that show him as a working painter. His barely articulated brushes and palette are painted in the same tones as his robe and seem like a natural extension of his arm. The prime focus of the painting is the artist’s face, illuminated by light and a bright white cap against an otherwise murky background.
There are several paintings by Gainsborough in the exhibition including the full-length portrait
Mary, Countess Howe (ca. 1764), in which Gainsborough has created both an image of aristocratic elegance against the natural setting of the English countryside and one of a landowner among her properties.
Such full-length portraits of ladies in nature were popular during this period, owing to a great admiration for the aristocratic portraits of Sir Anthony Van Dyck, royal painter to Charles I of England in the 17th century. Along with such aristocratic ladies, the collection’s “virtual harem” of English portraits features celebrity demimondaines including actresses and mistresses. Foremost among these are
Emma Hart—later Lady Hamilton—who served as George Romney’s muse,
and Kitty Fisher—one of the most celebrated courtesans in London society.
British portraits of 18th century gentlemen are often placed indoors in dignified settings that indicate their accomplishments or status as leisured aristocrats.
Van Dyck’s influence on such portraits is evident in a comparison of his James Stuart, 1st Duke of Richmond and 4th Duke of Lennox (ca. 1636)
to Gainsborough’s portrait of John Joseph Merlin (1781), which echoes Van Dyck’s 17th-century aristocratic portrait in its use of a seated pose, elegant hands, and bold, red fabric against a brown background.
The exhibition also includes two rare hunting scenes by Gainsborough and a thrilling Edwin Henry Landseer picture of a heron caught in the grip of a hawk.
While the exhibition is on tour, Kenwood House will be undergoing a major repair and conservation program. The work will make the roof wind and weather tight—protecting the magnificent interior and important art collection from serious leaks and damp—and will also repair and revive Kenwood’s beautiful exterior. The project will be complete in summer 2013.
The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and English Heritage. It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities, with additional funding from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. In-kind support is provided by Barbara and Richard S. Lane.
ABOUT SEATTLE ART MUSEUM
Seattle Art Museum (SAM) provides a welcoming place for people to connect with art and to consider its relationship to their lives. SAM is one museum in three locations: SAM Downtown, Seattle Asian Art Museum at Volunteer Park, and the Olympic Sculpture Park on the downtown waterfront. SAM collects, preserves and exhibits objects from across time and across cultures, exploring the dynamic connections between past and present. SAM is committed to taking action to protect our environment and to finding creative ways to reduce our ecological footprint.
ABOUT AMERICAN FEDERATION OF ARTS The AFA is a nonprofit institution that organizes art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishes exhibition catalogues and develops educational materials and programs for children and adults. The AFA’s mission is to enrich the public’s experience of art and understanding of culture by organizing and touring a diverse offering of exhibitions embracing all aspects of art history. The AFA has organized or circulated approximately 3,000 exhibitions with presentations in museums in every state, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa that have been viewed by more than 10 million people. For more information about its programs, see www.afaweb.org.
ABOUT ENGLISH HERITAGE English Heritage is the government’s lead advisory body for the historic environment in England and is responsible for the national collection of historic sites and monuments, as well as their contents and archives. The collection comprises more than 400 historic places and spans 5,000 years of architecture, from prehistoric sites to nuclear bunkers. It includes Stonehenge and much of Hadrian’s Wall, the ruins of the greatest medieval abbeys, the world’s first iron bridge, Charles Darwin’s diaries and the Duke of Wellington’s boots. www.english-heritage.org.uk.
More info om artists and works.
Rembrandt van Rijn. Portrait of the Artist, ca. 1665. Oil on canvas. 47 x 45 in. Kenwood House, English Heritage; Iveagh Bequest (88028836). Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts.
Thomas Gainsborough. Mary, Countess Howe, ca. 1764. Oil on canvas. 95 x 61 in. Kenwood House, English Heritage; Iveagh Bequest (88029039). Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts.
George Romney, Emma Hart as “The Spinstress," ca. 1784–85, oil on canvas, 68 5/8 x 50 5/8 in., Kenwood House, English Heritage; Iveagh Bequest (88028814). Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts
Kitty Fisher as “Cleopatra” Dissolving the Pearl, 1759, by Joshua Reynolds (English, 1723–1792, oil on canvas, 30 1/4 x 25 1/4 in.) Kenwood House, English Heritage; Iveagh Bequest (Photo: American Federation of Arts)
MORE IMAGES FROM EXHIBITION
Aelbert Cuyp. View of Dordrecht, ca. 1655. Oil on canvas. 39 3/8 x 53 1/4 in. Kenwood House, English Heritage; Iveagh Bequest (88028825). Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts.
Anthony van Dyck. Princess Henrietta of Lorraine Attended by a Page, 1634 Oil on canvas. 84 3/8 x 50 3/4 in. Kenwood House, English Heritage; Iveagh Bequest (88028826). Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts.
Frans Hals. Pieter van den Broecke, 1633. Oil on canvas. 28 x 24 in. Kenwood House, English Heritage; Iveagh Bequest (88028830). Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts.
Joseph Mallord William Turner. A Coast Scene with Fishermen Hauling a Boat Ashore ("The Iveagh Sea-Piece"), ca. 1803-04. Oil on canvas. 36 1/8 x 48 1/4 in. Kenwood House, English Heritage; Iveagh Bequest (88028820). Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts.
EUROPEAN MASTERS: THE TREASURES OF SEATTLE
Focusing on a great collector of the 19th century, the Treasures of Kenwood House also presents the perfect moment to reveal some of the extraordinary collecting of European painting that has been quietly taking place in Seattle over the last 20 years. The Treasures of Seattle exhibition features approximately 40 paintings, all from local collections, which will share the special exhibition galleries with the paintings from Kenwood House. The paired exhibitions will give visitors the opportunity to observe different approaches to collecting, the history of taste, and how the market has changed since Lord Iveagh began to form his collection in 1887. Featured artists include Vittore Carpaccio, Francisco de Zurbarán, J.A.D. Ingres, Eugène Delacroix, and Frans Hals.
Portrait of an Unknown Man, ca. 1660-1665 Oil on panel Frans Hals Dutch, 1581-1666 13 7/16 x 10 9/16 in. (34.2 x 26.8 cm) Mr. Richard Hedreen
This exhibition is organized by the Seattle Art Museum. Visionary Circle support is provided by Jeffrey and Susan Brotman, Barney A. Ebsworth, Jon and Mary Shirley, Virginia Wright, and Ann P. Wyckoff.
Presenting sponsor for the Seattle presentation is JPMorgan Chase & Co. Supporting sponsors are Melbourne Tower and Washington State Arts Commission/National Endowment for the Arts.