For Rhodes College student Kylie Chandler, landing an internship position at the Arkansas Arts Center is particularly exciting this summer. It means the studio art and art history major will have the opportunity to be involved with the center’s newest offering, “Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London.”
She was one of the first in Little Rock to see the collection of 48 pieces that include 17th, 18th and a few early 19th century masters such as Dutch painter Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, English portrait and landscape painter Thomas Gainsborough, Flemish Baroque artist Anthony van Dyck, Dutch Golden Age painter Frans Hals, English painter Joshua Reynolds, and Chandler’s favorite British Romantic landscape painter Joseph Mallord William “J.M.W.” Turner.
Turner’s ca. 1803-04 piece, “A Coast Scene with Fishermen Hauling a Boat Ashore,” is part of the exhibit. However, the centerpiece may be Rembrandt’s “Portrait of the Artist,” ca. 1665, and English portrait painter Sir Thomas Lawrence’s “Miss Murray,” ca. 1824-26, may be one of the more charming pieces.
Chandler says she is impressed with Turner’s work because of the sublime nature of his paintings, yet there’s a constant underlying tension in his subject matter. Originally, his work remained in the confines of the accepted but as he grew older and more famous, his work became more controversial and more colorful.
Now he is regarded as the artist who raised the standard of landscape painting and he is often referred to as the “painter of light.”
“His [Turner’s] work is incredible … many of the pieces in this exhibit are the ultimate expression of humanism. It’s great,” she says.
Of course, there are more artists on display.
A few days before the official opening, executive director Todd Herman seemed as excited as a kid on Christmas, and because of his prior job history and connections, he was instrumental in bringing the exhibit to central Arkansas.
Originally, the U.S. tour was only scheduled to stop in three cities, but because of the Art Center’s interest, ability to meet strict facility criterion and garner sponsors, and the extra time to complete the renovations on Kenwood House, a neoclassical villa in London, Little Rock became the fourth and last stop on the tour.
Planning started about two years ago, and was organized by the American Federation of Arts and English Heritage. It is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities with additional funding from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation.
The exhibit is also a great way for the center to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
Herman says it opened in 1963 with an Old Masters exhibit on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
“It sets us up for a wonderful next 50 years,” he says.
Susan Jenkins, senior curator collections London & East, says, “I’m pleased. The pieces are beautifully installed and the trustees have been gracious.
Herman says most often his job keeps him busy but until this exhibit closes Sept. 8, he plans to spend as much time as possible in the exhibit gallery.
Referring to the pieces, he says, “There are always things I see that I didn’t notice before. It’s a rare treat for Arkansas.”
The Arkansas Arts Center’s “Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London” runs through Sept. 8. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $6 for youth/students.
The Arkansas Arts Center is located in downtown Little Rock at the corner of Ninth and Commerce streets, and is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. For more information, call 501-972-4000 or go to: www.arkarts.com.