Art exhibitions on aristocratic estates that are worth seeing

With the easing of lockdown restrictions and summer just around the corner, the art world is finally back on its feet. In addition to galleries and museums, many of the UK’s most magnificent estates are now open to the public again – with new art installations must-see.

Perfect for a cultural day trip, we’ve handpicked five of the best exhibits on display this summer at properties ranging from the gothic Mount Stuart House to the majestic Blenheim Palace.

Cecil Beaton at Blenheim Palace

The Ninth Duke of Marlborough and his second wife, American intellectual Gladys Deacon, were enthusiastic hosts for the roughly seven years they lived at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire in the 1920s.

Moving to the magnificent stately home after their marriage in 1921, the Duke left seven years later and expelled his wife two years later. However, during their brief stay Cecil Beaton was a regular visitor and returned frequently as a guest of subsequent dukes. Today he is invited again – posthumously – as an exhibition of his celebrity portraits runs through July 4.

Beaton’s portraits represent top notch celebrities: Barbra Streisand, Twiggy, Coco Chanel, Andy Warhol. Hollywood stars include Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. The oldest is that of Stephen Tennant disguised as Prince Charming, taken in 1927; the latest by American sculptor Louise Nevelson dates from 1978. Beaton died two years later.

Here in Blenheim – a gift from Queen Anne to John Churchill for winning England’s victory in a series of battles, including that of Blenheim in 1704 – they hang surrounded by paintings of the aristocracy. There’s the Fourth Duke and His Family by Joshua Reynolds in the Red Room; Becker’s Mary, 10th Duchess of Marlborough in the Great Hall; even a pastel drawing of Gladys Deacon by Beaton himself in the Grand Cabinet of State Rooms. Beside them, Beaton’s rich black-and-white photographs tell equal stories of fame, glamor, and power.

Until July 4th. Blenheim Palace, Woodstock OX20 1PP; blenheimpalace.com

Ai Weiwei at Blenheim Palace


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