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12 Days

5 January 2014

For each of the 12 days of Christmas we have asked Apollo staff and contributors to select the artistic highlights that they are most eagerly anticipating in 2014. The Muse Room will return with its regular daily blogs on 7 January 2014. From all of us at Apollo, happy new year!

What a marvellous man was William Kent. And what a marvellous exhibition about him has been running at New York’s Bard Graduate Center since last September. In March it transfers to the V&A in London and while the show probably won’t attract the throng which turns up for every display of celebrity fashion, ‘William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain’ deserves to have attendees queuing around the block.

(1828), William Henry Hunt

Gallery, Chiswick House (1828), William Henry Hunt © Devonshire Collection, Chatsworth. Reproduced by permission of the Chatsworth Settlement Trustees

A Yorkshireman who wielded remarkable influence over many diverse fields, Kent’s origins were modest: he began his professional life as a sign and coach painter. Yet his unbounded energy, intellectual curiosity and artistic ability were all recognised early, and soon he was designing houses, furniture, gardens, silver and even a state barge for the Prince of Wales.

Displaying the extraordinarily full spectrum of this polymath’s output, the exhibition comes a year after the success of the show at Houghton (winner of Apollo’s ‘Exhibition of the Year’ award) in the creation of which Kent played a pivotal role. It’s already high on my list for most anticipated event of 2014.

‘William Kent: Designing Georgian Britain’ is at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from 22 March–13 July 2014.