Tuesday, April 20, 2021
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Kenwood House London – Filled with Old Masters

Hampstead Heath, North London

Kenwood House is a striking Georgian villa and a stately home on the edge of Hampstead, North London

The front of Kenwood  House - built sometime in the early 17th century.
The front of Kenwood House – built sometime in the early 17th century.

ALL THE PAINTINGS: Anytime you like to invite a friend to something secret at a little-known location, here is an architectural stunner: Kenwood House. Add tranquil gardens, stunning art collection and wonderful views on the edge of Hampstead Heath in North London. You will most likely be inspired by Rembrandt´s famous painting “Self Portrait with Two Circles”, one of the most famous pieces in the history of art.

More art: Aspley House – “Number 1 London”

This Self Portrait is an oil on canvas and one of over 40 painted self-portraits by the Dutch artist. In the portrait, Rembrandt holds his palette, brushes, and a stick. The painting is notable for its monumentality and the enigmatic background consisting of a shallow space with the fragments of two circles.

Kenwood´s collection of old masters is the largest single private-to-public donation of all time.
Kenwood´s collection of old masters is the largest single private-to-public donation of all time.

The largest donation

Kenwood´s collection of old masters is the largest single private-to-public donation of all time. In addition to the star attraction by Rembrandt, the many world-famous works are “The Guitar Player” by Vermeer and “Mary, Countess Howe” by Thomas Gainsborough. Or works by Turner and Romney who lived in Hampstead, and also by Van Dyck, Hals and Reynolds.

Be inspired by Rembrandt´s famous  “Self Portrait with Two Circles”
Be inspired by Rembrandt´s famous “Self Portrait with Two Circles”

Gift to the Public

The collection is in a space both private and public, as if art’s two desires – to be kept in private, and to be seen by many. It is hard, from a current view of the super-rich, to understand what could possibly have motivated the Earl of Iveagh, Edward Cecil Guinness, to buy the house from the Earl of Mansfield, fill it with one of the most valuable art collections in the country, and then leave it for the free use of the public after his death.

Stunner of a villa

Kenwood House was built sometime in the early 17th century. Robert Adam transformed a tired, old and boring Kenwood into a stunner of a neoclassical villa for William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. Murray, a former Lord Chief Justice, and his wife Elizabeth used to visit the red brick house as their weekend country villa and naturally, the more they visited, the more they wanted done and asked Adam to pimp up the place.

The Music Room at Kenwood House
The Music Room at Kenwood House

Great summer pleasure

Now Kenwood is a striking Georgian villa and a stately home on the edge of Hampstead Heath. The orangery is used for concerts and recitals and the Adam Library has a spectacularly  curved, painted ceiling. Summer means concerts at Kenwood House, one of London´s great summer pleasures to music from the likes of Art Garfunkel and Noel Gallagher´s High Flying Birds. Perfect for picnic, art and live music.

While you are here, be sure to check out the wooden “bridge” near Kenwood House. It can´t be crossed as it isn´t a bridge at all, merely a folly designed to make the place look nice.

Bridge - no bridge: check out the wooden “bridge” near Kenwood House.
Bridge – no bridge: check out the wooden “bridge” near Kenwood House.

Get me to Kenwood House

Take the tube to either Golders Green or Archway and then either take the long walk or take the 210 bus to Kenwood. Alternatively, you can take the train to the Hampstead Heath station and then go on the long walk, take a taxi or take the bus.

Updated 2021: 50 Things to do in London

Gudmund Lindbaek
Gudmund Lindbaek
Journalist founded King Goya a few years back. Meeting people, local food and engaging stories are my passion. I plan for ambitious once-in-a-lifetime trips. My delight is the prospect of Future Travels: Longer, Slower, Farther! I just want a tiny slice of adventure to be alive, and then excited to return home.

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