Just five miles from London’s city center lies a slice of the English countryside positioned in Hampstead Heath. Kenwood House is an opulent historic house and art museum open to the public, and the location from which works of art in Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: Treasures from Kenwood House, London traveled to Milwaukee.
Though the architecture is a feat itself, remodeled in the Neoclassical style by Robert Adam in 1764, Kenwood is famous for housing the Iveagh Bequest, a collection of masterpieces that includes paintings by seventeenth-century Dutch artists such as Rembrandt, Anthony van Dyck, and Albert Cuyp, and the British artists who were inspired by them—Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds, to name just a few.
Kenwood House was originally the home of the Earl of Mansfield, who eventually auctioned off its contents and sold the house itself. The British government purchased a portion of the grounds to extend the parklands of Hampstead Heath, and Lord Iveagh, who wanted an exhibition space for his art collection, bought the house.
Irish businessman Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh (or simply Lord Iveagh), was the youngest of three brothers who were all heirs to the Guinness brewery. Edward bought out his brothers’ shares in the company in 1876 at the age of twenty-eight and multiplied the family business five-fold during the subsequent ten years. When his company went public on the Stock Market and he became a multimillionaire at age thirty-eight, he retired and set out to build a collection of art. The collection was not just for his enjoyment, but also to make a name for himself in English society. He formed his collection primarily between 1887 and 1891.
Lord Iveagh died in 1927. He had previously arranged for 63 hand-selected objects from his art collection to be given to the British nation, along with Kenwood House itself; this gift is known as the Iveagh Bequest.
Because Kenwood House is currently closed for repairs, selections from the Iveagh Bequest, together with paintings purchased specifically for Kenwood, are traveling—many for the first time—to the United States. The Milwaukee Art Museum is one of four venues for this exhibition.