Rembrandt Van Dyck Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s newest temporary exhibit, Rembrandt Van Dyck Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London is currently open until January 6th, 2013.  The cost of the temporary exhibit is included in the museum’s admission. Adults are $15, Students, Senior, and Military Personnel are $12 with ID and Children under 12 free. These works of art have never been to America and after the renovations are done to the Kenwood House in London will most likely never return. These painting are truly worth the trip to Milwaukee!

Kenwood House was originally built for the king’s printer, John Bill in 1616. Between 1764-1179, the second Earl of Mansfield commissioned the house’s neoclassical style villa by Scottish Architect, Robert Adam. In 1922, the sixth Earl of Mansfield decided to sell off all the contents, house, and gardens. In 1925, the first Earl of Iveagh bought the house and the surrounding land. The paintings were bequeathed to the house after the death of the Earl of Iveagh (Edward Cecil Guinness). He was the third son to the Guinness beer empire in Ireland,  bought out his two older brothers and made the brand the nationally renowned label it is today. The Earl never lived nor hung the paintings in the Kenwood House, rather he housed the painting and lived in a mansion near Piccadilly.

The Earl of Iveagh’s collecting aesthetics were based upon his love for children, landscape, and his own personal preferences. In America, the monetary gain and decadence showed wealth while for Earl Iveagh the collection was created out of love and careful consideration. Keeping the Dutch and Flemish masters who inspired the current English painters were pertinent in the artistic history of the nation to him and his fellow kinsmen.

Landscapes, children, Dutch and Flemish painters, and mythological and biblical characters are the main subjects in these works of arts. The most well known painting is the Rembrandt’s Portrait of the Artist, 1665. He finished it four years before his death and provides a self-reflection of his greatest qualities and achievements in a humbled portrait of an older gentlemen. Another master, Van Dyck’s Princess Henrietta of Lorraine Attend by a Page creates a historical snapshot of a welcoming and beckoning atmosphere. While Gainsborough’s Going to Market produces an almost 3-D illusion of life. The painting draws your eyes to the rustling leaves in the trees and the one passerby who spots you through the nearby brush. Are you friend or foe? These masters provide an escape to the 18th and 19th century world through visuals that not many can recreate today. Finally, artists like Reynolds’s subjects dress for the artist as a character. The work, Lady Mary Leslie portrays the tale of Cleopatra dropping her pearl earring in wine to dissolve away to impress Mark Antony. The subject was the famous prostitute,  Kitty Fisher who later died young from too much lead powder white face make-up.

The Milwaukee Art Museum’s temporary exhibit truly inspires the new artists of today. To see and experience more of the masters from the Kenwood House Collection visit the Milwaukee Art Museum webpage! Click Here!


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