Review: Treasures from Kenwood House, London


While their permanent home undergoes renovation, a collection of paintings from England grace the walls of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Rare works from Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Gainsborough are featured in the museum’s current exhibit, “Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London,” until Jan. 13, 2013.
Edward Cecil Guinness, Earl of Iveagh, originally owned the collection until his death in 1922 when the artwork was bestowed to Kenwood House, located in Hampstead, England. The Kenwood House treasures, which are traveling outside of England for the first time, are a must-see for art lovers and anyone else wanting to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Seventeenth and 18th century art dominates the collection, ranging from portraits to landscapes. The sole Rembrandt piece is a self-portrait, “Portrait of the Artist,” ca. 1655, which is arguably unfinished since the subject in the portrait is missing a hand.

Photo provided by MILWAUKEE ART MUSEUM
Gainsborough’s “Mary Countess Howe,” dressed in satiny pink, contrasts with the dark sky behind her, ca. 1764.

One of many noteworthy pieces is Van Dyck’s “Princess Henrietta of Lorraine Attended by a Page,” ca. 1634. Van Dyck’s piece features Princess Henrietta after her exile, causing the details of her face to appear strained and stiff. He also plays up the color contrast between her white skin, her black dress and the dark-skinned boy by her side.

Another excellent piece is Gainsborough’s “Mary, Countess Howe,” ca. 1764. Gainsborough’s piece exerts great detail in both the face of the woman and her pink dress. The painting’s background includes shadow-like shrubs and dark clouds, contrasting her bright pink dress.

The museum divides the art into groupings based on the individuals featured in each portrait: royalty; women and children; and rural and city folks. The groupings facilitate the museum attendant to compare paintings. All of the faces in the paintings, excluding the 8 foot tall pieces, are at eye level, which offers a great opportunity to thoroughly observe the work. Susan Jenkins, senior curator at English Heritage, praised the eye-level paintings because she could “have conversation.”

After visiting Kenwood, be sure to visit the Grete Marks exhibit, another temporary exhibit. Here, attendants can view ceramic teapots, cups, bowls and other various pottery objects created by Marks. Her ceramic art holds a fascinating history and Marks’s artistic talent is unique and inventive.


Exhibit Information:
Date: through Jan. 13, 2013
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursdays until 8 p.m.
Admission: Adults $15
Students/Seniors/Military $12
Members and children under 12 – Free


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