Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Return to Kenwood

Just a few weeks ago in the build up to Christmas I had another
look in at Kenwood House Hampstead as I was keen to try and
get some video footage on my phone. But being a sunny morning
many of the rooms were left in darkness apart from
the main Dining Room. And I was told that any bright light must
be kept off the important paintings and exhibits for fear of
destroying them.
So no filming on the day. But it did give me the chance to go
and look at some of the works that I probably overlooked on my
previous two visits, one being the Rembrandt self portrait which
hangs in The Dining Room.
In fact just as I entered the room there was a Kenwood House
tour guide informing a small group of visitors all about this great
painting. And as I came away from the group I was certain that
I overheard him saying that it was Rembrandt's sixth attempt

at the self portrait.

The Art Critic of The Guardian Jonathan Jones claims that
it is the single greatest painting in a British collection. And that
other great works like Van Gogh's Sunflower and Leonardo's
Virgin of The Rocks must surely take second place.
That article which was written shortly after the Kenwood
renovations (2012/13) can be read HERE.

The Rembrandt painting was acquired by Lord Iveagh who

owned and established Kenwood House and it's great art
collections. He originally bought the painting in 1888 at a
cost of £27,500.
And looking at this great work I do wonder what the significance is
of the two circles behind the artist.

Above is an image of possibly my favourite room at Kenwood,
The Dining Room. It's here that some of the most celebrated
pictures are displayed including the Rembrandt as well as the
 The voluptuous dark scarlet velvet wallpaper along with the
central chandelier add to the appeal of this grand room. 
Above left:   The Guitar Player by Jan Vermeer (1672).
This popular Vermeer portrait was temporarily displayed at
The National Gallery London in 2012 while Kenwood House
underwent important renovations.

Above right:  A portrait of inventor John Joseph Merlin by Thomas
Gainsborough (1782).
Merlin was a man of many talents. Most notably bringing about
the first manoeuvrable sedan wheelchair. He was also responsible
for inventing a harpsicord with pianoforte action.

Above:  A Coast Scene with Fishermen Hauling a Boat Ashore
by J M W Turner  (1803 - 04).

Just one of several works that greets you as you approach
the Dining Room.
Above:  Pieter van den Broecke by Frans Hals (1633 ).
Frans Hals was considered second only to Rembrandt
as a Dutch portrait painter.



  1. Hi Dee - We really should have gone to see Kenwood House. Not only for the Rembrandt but for the Vermeer, the Gainsborough and that incredible Hals! I would beg to differ about the Rembrandt being the greatest in a British collection - what about the one in the National Gallery? I think that self portrait - maybe his very last painting - is equally as great. And that Velazquez nude....Thanks for these wonderful photos. We need to come back!

    1. Hi Tim. What a shame that Kenwood wasn't on your visit plans when you were here in 2016.

      Yes the Rembrandt painting does seem to divide opinions. I do actually prefer this one to his
      final work which to me seems rather dark and gloomy. Even his cloak seems to blend in to the dark
      background. The one here seems brighter and richer in colour as well as having more clarity.

      Back then I suppose you could say that portrait paintings was the photography of the day. But I guess
      that you would only have your portrait painted if you were important enough. I think Rembrandt was a bit
      of a 'Selfie' addict as he painted himself more than most other artists.

      But glad you enjoyed the pictures.

  2. To explain Rembrandt's picture titled Self-Portrait with Two Circles would be the same as George Leigh Mallory replies to the question "Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?" with the retort "Because it's there". So may have Rembrandt reason for painting them.

    1. Neil, I've often thought the circles was some kind of secret hidden coded message.

  3. Artist going back to the days of roman rule took on the challenge to draw/paint a perfect circle by hand. Equal measure from all sides. Had to be done in one stroke. Tish-posh! I use to do it with my 72'VW Bug in parking lots after the first snow when I was a kid. Do that Rembrandt!!(audio: finger snap)