Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: Treasures from Kenwood House, London is an exhibition organized roughly into two sections, beginning with the Old Masters and moving into works by British painters.
Lord Iveagh had a vision for his collection—it was very much intentional and very much “in vogue.” He built his collection with those works typically found in English aristocratic collections. Since he was a newcomer to London, coming from his native Ireland, such works of art may have appealed to the earl’s desire to fit in with his peers and to elevate his social standing in London. He focused his collection mainly on portraits and landscapes (the most fashionable works to collect at the time) by Dutch and Flemish painters of the seventeenth-century. He also collected a handful of French and Italian masters, many of whom influenced the later British artists whose works he acquired.
The paintings by popular eighteenth-century British artists in Lord Iveagh’s collection came largely from the homes of aristocratic British families, who were selling family portraits they no longer wanted. That said, his collection includes mainly trendsetting eighteenth-century women and children—not men. The pleasant nostalgia associated with these artists’ work was greatly appealing to Lord Iveagh.
The designers and curators here in Milwaukee consciously decided to map out this exhibition in a unique way. Instead of creating a clear path through the space from beginning to end, in order to tell a specific story, the curatorial staff allowed for doorways and entrances into different areas. In this way, the works reflect the taste of Lord Iveagh and the mood of Kenwood House; the meandering pathways are meant to make you feel as if you are wandering through the rooms, admiring the works as you go.
Find a list of artist biographies here.
Learn more about specific paintings and find discussion questions for your students related to each one below.