History and Collections

Kenwood: History and Collections

Kenwood is best known for its outstanding collection of paintings, which includes world-famous works by Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals. The exquisite villa in which this collection is housed was one of the major works of the architect Robert Adam, who remodelled it in the 1760s and 1770s. It has been home to many famous residents, including a Prime Minister, a Lord Chief Justice and a Russian Grand Duke, attracted – like visitors today – by Kenwood’s idyllic setting, rural yet close to central London. 

Find out more about the story of Kenwood, its intriguing former inhabitants, and the collections housed within its walls.

Discover Kenwood’s History

  • History of Kenwood

    Discover the history of Kenwood, from its 17th-century beginnings to the 21st-century restoration of its Georgian grandeur.

  • Dido Belle

    Learn about the life of Dido Belle, who was the daughter of a formerly enslaved woman and a Royal Naval officer and was raised at Kenwood.

  • The Somerset case

    The Somerset v Stewart ruling in 1772, made by Lord Mansfield of Kenwood, was a landmark in the progress towards the abolition of slavery in England.

  • Introduction to the Georgian Period

    Read about the dramatic changes that took place in Britain during the Georgian period, when Kenwood was remodelled into the villa we see today.

Explore The Collections

Kenwood’s collection includes fine historic interiors, sculpture, furniture and jewellery. Most famous are the house’s internationally renowned paintings, which include works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Reynolds.

The collection of paintings has grown from an initial gift of 63 works. These were bequeathed in 1928 by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, to evoke the atmosphere of an 18th-century gentleman’s house.

    

Explore highlights from the collection
  • THE IVEAGH BEQUEST

    Kenwood’s internationally important collection of paintings was bequeathed by Lord Iveagh in 1927. Find out about the collection and the man behind it.

  • THE SUFFOLK COLLECTION

    This fine collection of royal and family portraits spanning the 16th to the 19th centuries includes internationally important paintings by William Larkin.

  • SPOTLIGHT ON REYNOLDS

    We explore the life and work of the great 18th-century portrait painter, Joshua Reynolds through his 17 paintings in the collection at Kenwood. 

  • MINIATURES, JEWELLERY AND SHOE BUCKLES

    Kenwood is home to three distinct collections of small, portable Georgian treasures that reveal the skills of 18th-century artists and craftspeople.

  • PICTURES OF INNOCENCE

    Discover how, from the mid 18th century, new ideas about innocence, morality and family were reflected in the art of the Georgian age.

Take a closer look

Explore some of Kenwood’s best-known paintings in detail, and find out more about the artists, their subjects, and the artistic significance of these works.

  • Rembrandt's Self-Portrait with Two Circles

    Learn about the historical and artistic significance of of one of the finest surviving Rembrandt self-portraits, and about the range of techniques he used.

  • THE GUITAR PLAYER

    Discover the story of The Guitar Player, one of only 36 known paintings by Johannes Vermeer, on Google Arts and Culture.

  • OLD LONDON BRIDGE

    Take an in-depth look at this masterpiece by Claude de Jongh, which provides a unique record of one of London’s most famous lost structures.

  • EMMA HAMILTON: ARTIST’S MUSE

    Discover how George Romney’s portraits of Emma Hamilton, including The Spinstress, propelled its subject to fame.

More resources

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