Monday, June 10, 2013

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

Collage of Some of the Portraits in Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of the Kenwood House, London.
Top Row: George Romney, Emma Hart as the “Spinstress”, ca. 1784-85; Thomas Gainsborough, Portrait of Mary Countess of Howe, 1760; Joshua Reynolds, Kitty Fisher as “Cleopatra” Dissolving the Pearl, 1759
Middle Row: Frans Hals, Portrait of Pieter van den Broecke, 1633; Rembrandt, Self-Portrait with Two Circles; John Hoppner, Mrs. Jordan as Viola in Twelfth Night, ca. 1785-86
Bottom Row: Joshua Reynolds, Mrs. Tollemache as “Miranda”, 1773-74; Joshua Reynolds, Mrs. Musters as “Hebe”, 1785; George Romney, Mrs. Musters, 1779-80
Collage of Some of the Portraits in Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of the Kenwood House, London.
The Seattle Art Museum show Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of the Kenwood House, London (Feb 14 – May 19, 2013) has come and gone but I wanted to write a little something about it. The show featured a selection of approximately 50 work from the collection of the Kenwood House. The house was donated to the British nation by Lord Iveagh (Edward Guinness) when he died in 1927. Lord Iveagh was a member of the Guinness family (accomplished in many things as well as being the makers of Guinness Beer) who amassed quite a collection of Old Master paintings of which a selection was included in this show. The SAM site says “Since the earl was a newcomer to London emigrating from his native Ireland, he may have selected works that would help him fit in with his peers and elevate his social standing.”

A number of the paintings in the exhibit are portraits of society women playing dress up as Hebe or Cleopatra for example. Not sure what it means but it was fun to look at. Then there is Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait with Two Circles. There have been a few ideas put forward as to what those circles are behind Rembrandt in the portrait, but not one person said “eyes”, as in I’ll be watching you! That’s my vote.

There was a companion exhibition: European Masters: Treasures of Seattle that, on paper looked like a good idea, but in practice to the average exhibition visitor, leaned more toward awkward juxtaposition. Speaking of awkward juxtaposition, Daphne Guinness (artist and descendant of Lord Iveagh as I found out later, apparently I was not paying close attention to what I was listening during my visit) popped up a few times in the audio guide. I kept wondering why is this lady in my headphones talking about modeling and how tough it is? Ah, she can fill us in on hard it is to sit as Hebe or Cleopatra. I see, but Rembrandt’s circles are so much more interesting.

European Masters Map & Guide
European Masters Map & GuideEuropean Masters Map & GuideEuropean Masters Map & Guide

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