Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House Launches Its American Tour at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, in June 2014

Old Master paintings, sculptures and decorative arts from the collection of the Marquess of Cholmondeley travel for the first time from one of England's greatest country estates

Nov 22, 2013, 10:00 ET from Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

HOUSTON, Nov. 22, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Director Gary Tinterow today announced an unprecedented exhibition: Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House, which will open at the Museum on June 22, 2014. The exhibition marks the first time the famous collection of the Marquesses of Cholmondeley, housed at Houghton Hall, will travel outside of England.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20131122/DA21013)

The Norfolk estate and much of its collection were built in the early 1700s by Sir Robert Walpole, England's first prime minister and the ancestor of the current marquess. Renowned as one of the finest Palladian houses and one of the most extensive art collections in Britain, Houghton became notorious when Sir Robert's collection of Old Master paintings was sold by his grandson to Russian Empress Catherine the Great in 1779. However, the home and all of its furnishings—considered to comprise William Kent's Georgian masterpiece—remained intact, and eight generations of Walpole's descendants have added considerably to the collection of paintings.

"Houghton Hall and its superb collections epitomize the historic legacy of art, architecture and patronage among the great families and country houses of England," commented Tinterow. "I am delighted to partner with David Cholmondeley to bring this extraordinary heritage to American audiences."

"I was enormously gratified by the response to Houghton Revisited, the exhibition in which we reunited the paintings sold to Catherine the Great with their home at Houghton Hall," commented David Cholmondeley on the success of that recent project. "I look forward to working with Gary Tinterow and his colleagues at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, to share Houghton Hall and our family's history with visitors in Houston, San Francisco and Nashville."

Organized by Tinterow; Christine Gervais, associate curator; and Lord Cholmondeley, the exhibition will tour nationally after the Houston presentation, beginning with the Legion of Honor of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the Frist Center for the Visual Arts in Nashville.

Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House will assemble more than 100 objects in settings that combine paintings, porcelain, sculpture, costume, metalwork and furniture to evoke the stunning rooms at Houghton Hall. From great family portraits by William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds and John Singer Sargent, to exquisite examples of Sevres porcelain, rare pieces of R. J. & S. Garrard silver and unique furniture by William Kent, the pieces in the exhibition vividly evoke a fascinating story of art, history and politics through the acquisitions of this aristocratic English family over three centuries.

In addition to objects from the collection at Houghton Hall, the exhibition features significant loans—paintings and other artworks once in the family's possessions. Among these are important portraits by Frans Hals, Anthony van Dyck and Diego Velazquez from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., along with Paul de Lamerie silver from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and William Lukin wine coolers from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The exhibition will remain on view in Houston through September 22, 2014.

SOURCE Museum of Fine Arts, Houston