Rembrandt van Rijn, Portrait of the Artist, ca. 1665. Oil on canvas, 47 x 45 in. Kenwood House, English Heritage, England (88028836) Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts.
MILWAUKEE, WIS.- Yesterday, the Milwaukee Art Museum opened Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London, an exhibition of forty-eight masterpieces on tour from the Iveagh Bequest collection. Most of the paintings have never traveled to the States before, and many of them have rarely been seen outside London’s Kenwood House. The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and English Heritage.
A magnificent painting 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. Donated to the nation by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (1847–1927) and heir to the world’s most successful brewery, the collection was shaped by the tastes of the Belle Époque—Europe’s equivalent to America’s Gilded Age—when the earl shared the cultural stage and art market with other industry titans such as the Rothschilds, J. Pierpont Morgan, and Henry Clay Frick. The earl’s purchases, made mainly between 1887 and 1891, reveal a taste for the portraiture, landscape, and seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish works that could typically be found in English aristocratic collections.
“It is an honor to collaborate with Kenwood House and with the American Federation of Arts, to host this exquisite collection of masterworks,” said Daniel Keegan, director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. “This priceless collection holds significance the world-over, and again, it speaks volumes about our Museum, and the reputation it has established internationally, that Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London is coming to Milwaukee.”
Among the works on view are Rembrandt's sublime Portrait of the Artist (ca. 1665), Anthony van Dyck’s Princess Henrietta of Lorraine Attended by a Page (1634), Thomas Gainsborough’s Mary, Countess Howe (ca. 1764), Frans Hals’s Pieter van den Broecke (1633), and Joshua Reynolds’s Lady Louisa Manners (1779).
“These artists were inspired by Europe’s rich seascapes and landscapes and aristocratic elegance,” said Keegan. “The works are exceptional, sumptuous, and speak to the heart of the eighteenth-century Golden Age.”
While the exhibition is on tour, Kenwood House is being refurbished; the villa will reopen in late 2013.
The exhibition is curated by Susan Jenkins, together with her colleagues at English Heritage, the government's lead advisory body for the historic environment in England.
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, England (88028820) Photo courtesy American Federation of Arts