Kenwood House (also known as the Iveagh Bequest) is a former stately home, in Hampstead, London, on the northern boundary of Hampstead Heath. It is managed by English Heritage, and normally open to the public, but closed for major renovations until late 2013. Fifty works from the house's small but important collection of Old Master paintings are touring museums in the United States, including Rembrandt's Self Portrait with Two Circles, while others including Vermeer's The Guitar Player have been loaned to the National Gallery.
The original house dates from the early 17th century. The orangery was added in about 1700. In 1754 it was bought by William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield. He commissioned Robert Adam to remodel it from 1764-1779. Adam added the library (one of his most famous interiors) to balance the orangery, and added the Ionic portico at the entrance. In 1793-6 George Saunders added two wings on the north side, and the offices and kitchen buildings and brewery (now the restaurant) to the side.
It was donated to the nation by Lord Iveagh, a member of the Guinness family, when he died in 1927, and opened to the public in 1928. He had bought the house from the Mansfield family in 1925. Unfortunately the furnishing had already been sold by then, so the house is largely empty. Some furniture has since been added. The paintings are from Iveagh's collection. Part of the grounds were bought by the Kenwood Preservation Council in 1922, after there had been threats that it would be sold for building. In the late 1990s the house received approximately 150,000 visitors a year and an estimated 1 million people visited the grounds each year.
In 2012 an exhibition of works from the art collection 'Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London' toured museums in the United States while Kenwood House was undergoing renovations; many of the works had never been outside Britain.
Paintings of note include
- The Guitar Player by Johannes Vermeer
- Self Portrait with Two Circles, a late Rembrandt self-portrait
- Portrait of Pieter van den Broecke, by Frans Hals
- Thomas Gainsborough, 'Portrait of Countess Howe' (wife of Richard Howe, 1st Earl Howe)
- Edwin Henry Landseer, 'Hunting in the Olden Times'
Other painters include
- Joshua Reynolds, 'Mrs. Tollemache as ‘Miranda’'
- Angelica Kauffmann
- John Crome
- George Morland
- Anthony Van Dyck
- William Larkin
- J. M. W. Turner
- Arthur Boyd Houghton
- François Boucher
- Thomas Lawrence, 'Miss Murray'
- George Romney
- Jan Baptist Weenix
- Joseph Wright
Most of the works were acquired by Iveagh in the 1880s-1890s and focus on Old Master portraits, landscapes and 17th century Dutch and Flemish works and British artists. Others were not part of the Iveagh Bequest but were added to the collection after his death because of a connection with Kenwood House.
The estate has a designed landscape with gardens near the house, probably originally designed by Humphry Repton, contrasting with some surrounding woodland, and the naturalistic Hampstead Heath to the south. There is also a new garden by Arabella Lennox-Boyd.
Music concerts, originally classical but in more recent years predominantly pop concerts, were held by the lake on Saturday evenings every summer from 1951 until 2006, attracting thousands of people to picnic and enjoy the music, scenery and spectacular fireworks. In February 2007, English Heritage decided to abandon these concerts owing to restrictions placed on them after protests from some local residents. The future of Kenwood House is now uncertain, as English Heritage depended on the income from the Lakeside Concerts to maintain the house at a cost of around a million pounds per year. On 19 March 2008, it was announced that the concerts would return to a new location on the Pasture Ground within the Kenwood Estate, with the number of concerts limited to eight per season.
- English Heritage website for the house
- National Gallery page on the loaned Vermeer.
- "More than £40,000 needed to restore 18th century Kenwood Dairy". Ham&High. 8 October 2012.
- Kenwood: Information for Tutors and Students of Tourism Studies, English Heritage booklet 2002 revision, page 5.
- Glentzer, Molly (June 8, 2012). "British treasures leave home for the MFAH". Houston Chronicle.
- "Masterpieces from London’s Kenwood House tours the US, brings works by Rembrandt, Gainsborough". The Washington Post. Associated Press. June 1, 2012.
- "Kenwood Summer Concerts cancelled". BBC News. 2007-02-20. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- "IMG and English Heritage announce stunning line up for Kenwood House Picnic Concerts". Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- The Buildings of England London 4: North. Bridget Cherry and Nikolaus Pevsner. ISBN 0-300-09653-4 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- Kenwood: The Iveagh Bequest. Julius Bryant. (English Heritage publication).