Rijksmuseum Twenthe - Het kunstmuseum van Enschede

Ladies and Gentleman

Portraits of the British Golden Age from Tate Britain
Rijksmuseum Twenthe presented from 31 March until 16 September 2012 the very first exhibition in the Netherlands of British portraits from the 18th century. All the paintings were from Tate Britain in London, and included works by famous artists such as Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and Sir Thomas Lawrence.

Portraits from Tate Britain

All the portraits were from Tate Britain in London, where they are among the prominent museum artworks. Due to a renovation, the London museum wasn’t able to show all the pieces from its permanent collection; these top works then became available on temporary loan. On the basis of twelve very different works, a compact overview could be given of portrait art from the Golden Age of British art.

Golden Age

The 18th century is considered as the Golden Age of British art. During this period British artists reached an exceptionally high standard and, after they first had been influenced by Dutch and French painters, they in turn inspired European art. A fine example from this period which was recently acquired by Rijksmuseum Twenthe recently is Wooded landscape with shepherd and sheep by Thomas Gainsborough. Portrait art was the most prominent art form in the 18th century, and it was a particular obsession of the status-conscious British. A talented portraitist was able to give anyone the charm or presence of a real lady or gentleman.

Nouveau riche

The flowering of British portrait art in the first half of the 18th century was also due to the political and economic changes which occurred in the late 17th century. The authority of the monarchy and aristocracy was gradually undermined and the future lay clearly in the hands of merchants and urban artisans and professionals, the growing ‘middle class’ of society. These nouveau riche or new rich started to develop an interest in culture and especially portrait art.


In the exhibition Ladies & Gentlemen, portraits could be viewed of the later King George IV, of noble families and citizens and of a mistress. The works in the presentation mirrored the portraits in the museum collection of Rijksmuseum Twenthe. Often there are intriguing 'parallels': for example, the portrait of Samuel Richardson and his family from Tate Britain shows the writer of the book The History of Sir Charles Grandison that features so prominently on the table in Tibout Regters' Portrait of a lady from Rijksmuseum Twenthe.

Opening by Thomas von der Dunk

On Saturday 31 March 2012 the exhibition Ladies & Gentlemen was opened by Thomas von der Dunk. Thomas von der Dunk (1961) is a culture historian, publicist and columnist for de Volkskrant. In 1994 he received his doctorate on political and ideological aspects of the monument cult in the Holy Roman Empire from the 14th to 18th century. Since 2002 he has worked as a freelance publicist and political commentator.