As St. Patrick’s Day approaches, it is only apropos that the spectacular collection of Edward Cecil Guinness, a 19th century Irish industrialist and head of the Guinness Brewing empire, tours through Seattle at the Seattle Art Museum (SAM). Forty-eight paintings bequeathed to the Kenwood House in London upon his death in 1927 will appear at SAM in the Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London exhibit. The exhibition is on view February 14 through May 19, 2013.
What’s interesting to me about this collection is that Guinness was not an aristocrat, but rather a hard-working business man that brought him his title, the 1st Earl of Iveagh, and the money to buy this stunning collection in a relatively short period of time (about 3 years.) The paintings he chose to purchase represent the life he wanted to achieve in aristocracy. The collection is displayed in a way to show his interests – portraits of women and children, landscapes, and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish works that could typically be found in English aristocratic collections.
“This exhibition introduces us to one of the greatest private art collections in Europe, assembled in the astonishingly short period of three years,” said Chiyo Ishikawa, Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture. “Edward Cecil Guinness exemplifies the rise of a new kind of collector, one not born into the aristocracy but who amassed a personal fortune based on spectacular business success.”
This collection, known as the Iveagh Bequest, resides at Kenwood House, a neoclassical villa in London in the midst of Hampstead Heath. The Kenwood House is one of the most magnificent visitor attractions in London. As it undergoes renovation, the United States is fortunate enough to have this collection tour to only 3 US cities, Seattle being the last. Some of the works including the main attraction, Rembrandt’s sublime Portrait of the Artist (ca. 1665), have never toured before. It is one of the artist’s last self-portraits and one of only a few of his many self-portraits that show him as a working painter.
SAM juxtaposes this collection with Seattle’s own collection of European masters, European Masters: The Treasures of Seattle. It demonstrates different approaches taken by some of Seattle’s most prolific art collectors and offers an interesting counterpoint to the Kenwood collection. The paired exhibitions will give visitors the opportunity to observe different approaches to collecting, the history of taste and how the art market has changed over the past 125 years.
“When we look at how people collect art, we learn a little bit about the society of which that individual is a part – what they valued, how they saw their world,” said Chiyo Ishikawa, Susan Brotman Deputy Director for Art and Curator of European Painting and Sculpture at the Seattle Art Museum. “This exhibition gives Seattle the opportunity to explore important examples of European master paintings from right here in our midst. On view right beside the exhibition of Edward Cecil Guinness’ collection from London’s Kenwood House, it also underscores the differences between the ways contemporary U.S. collectors approach living with art and the way it was collected in Great Britain’s Gilded Age.”
WHEN: Thursday, February 14, 2013 to Sunday, May 19, 2013
Seattle Art Museum
1300 1st Ave
Seattle, WA 98101
Tuesday–Sunday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Thursday and Friday: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
TICKETS: Please click here to purchase tickets.