Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House October 18, 2014 – January 18, 2015 Legion of Honor —The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco present Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House, an exhibition drawn from the collections of a quintessential English country house. Built in Norfolk in the 1720s for England’s first prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall features suites of grand rooms conceived by architect William Kent as settings for Walpole’s old master paintings, furniture, tapestries and Roman antiquities. “Houghton Hall brings to San Francisco a wonderful array of objects from one of Britain’s great country houses, and reflects the history of this magnificent estate across nearly 300 years, from the 18th century to the present day. It is particularly fitting that this exhibition is being displayed at the Legion of Honor, complementing our recently reinstalled collection of British paintings and decorative arts,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House tells the story of the structure and its inhabitants through displays that convey key architectural spaces, such as the impressive double-height Stone Hall of marble, stucco and silver limestone; the grand state Saloon, upholstered in red velvet; and the more restrained wood-paneled library, which served as Walpole’s office away from London. Kent’s architectural drawings, also on view, will reveal the geneses of these interiors, which were inspired by both Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and the style of Baroque-era Rome. William Kent was the first British architect to design furnishings in concert with architectural interiors, and a selection of pieces that he created specifically for Houghton Hall will be exhibited. In addition there will be porcelain and silver objects and family portraits and other pictures by notable English painters such as William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds that reflect the aesthetic and historical significance of the house. Other works of art on view will include portraits by Pompeo Batoni, an Italian artist popular among British travelers on the Grand Tour (the traditional journey through Europe undertaken by members of the upper classes), and old master paintings, such as Sir Anthony van Dyck’s Philip, Lord Wharton (1632) and Carlo Maratta’s The Rest on the Flight to Egypt (circa 1650). Walpole’s death, in 1745, preceded a sharp decline in family fortunes. Houghton became occupied intermittently, and many of its old master paintings were sold in 1779 to Catherine the Great of Russia.
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