William Kent by William Aikman 1723–25 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Location – Cromwell Rd, London SW7 2RL
A collaboration between the V&A and the Bard Graduate Center examines the life and work of William Kent (1685-1748), the leading architect and designer of early Georgian Britain. The exhibition celebrates Kent’s work over four decades (1709-48) .
Chiswick House by William Henry Hunt, 1828 © Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth. Reproduced by permission of the Chatsworth Settlement Trustees
Kent turned his hand to painting, sculpture, architecture, interior decoration, furniture, metalwork, book illustration, theatrical design, costume and landscape gardening. The exhibition demonstrates how Kent’s artistic ingenuity and inventiveness led him to play a dominant role in defining British taste for the period.
The exhibition brings together nearly 200 examples of William Kent’s work including architectural drawings for prominent buildings such as the Treasury (1732–37) and Horse Guards (1745–59) at Whitehall, spectacular gilt furniture from Houghton Hall (1725-35) and Chiswick House (1727-38), designs for landscape gardens at Rousham (1738–41) and Stowe (c.1728-40; c.1746-47), as well as paintings, illustrated books and Kent’s model for the Royal palace that was never built (1735), demonstrating the versatility of the ‘Kentian’ style. Many of his most renowned works still survive in country houses around Britain and the exhibition draws together important loans from private collections alongside objects from the V&A’s own collection.
Console table for Chiswick House 1727-32 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Kent is perhaps best known for the interiors and landscape gardens he designed for some of Britain’s grand country estates. On display are rare examples of Kent’s richly gilded and upholstered furniture made for Chiswick House, Wanstead House and Houghton Hall,
One section of the exhibition is devoted to Kent’s designs for the new Royal Family including those he produced for Frederick, Prince of Wales’s Royal Barge (1732), Queen Caroline’s Library at St James’ Palace (1736-37) and the Hermitage in Richmond Gardens (1730-31) together with spectacular examples of silver including a chandelier commissioned for the Royal palace in Hanover.
The Bute epergne made by Thomas Heming, designed by William Kent Date: 1756 Courtesy of the Sotheby’s Picture Library
The exhibition also examines Kent’s projects for the redesign of Georgian London. On display are architectural renderings and elevations for the facade of Horse Guards (1753) which show Kent’s lasting impact on the appearance of London today. Other architectural projects were never realised including the proposals he submitted for a new House of Parliament (1733–40) and interiors for the House of Lords at Westminster (1735-36), designs for which are on display.
2014 marks the tercentenary of the Hanoverian accession to the throne, a crucial moment in which the new British nation created an original sense of style that is still recognised across the world today. The exhibition is one of many events taking place across Britain and Germany in celebration of the 300th anniversary.
Armchair for Devonshire House Photography by Bruce White Date: ca. 1733-40 © Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth. Reproduced by permission of Chatsworth Settlement Trustees.
The V&A is open daily 10.00 – 17.45 and until 22.00 every Friday.
Ticket Information Tickets: £8 (concessions available)
V&A 22 March – 13 July 2014 www.vam.ac.uk/williamkent