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Art From Us MUSEUM GUIDE : National Portrait Gallery, London : Room 9

Today we arrive National Portrait Gallery London –the Kit-Cat Club, for our Museum Guide excursion, led by Divvya Nirula.

In this room we explore an exclusive London Club of the 18th century. Presented here are our top three works to see here. Next time you visit the museum, do not miss these.

1. Charles Fitzroy, 2nd Duke of Grafton, circa 1703, by Sir Godfrey Kneller
2. Sir Samuel Garth, circa 1705, by Sir Godfrey Kneller
3. Arthur Maynwaring, circa 1710, by Sir Godfrey Knelle

Image credit for artworks : National Portrait Gallery, London

Some fun facts about the Museum :

  • The Kit-cat Club was named after the mutton pies served at Christopher’s Cat’s tavern
  • The group’s members were Whigs and the activists who supported them. The club was highly exclusive. A space for cultural and political dialogue. The Kit-cats main agenda was to ensure a Protestant succession to the throne. It was the era of Queen Anne’s rule. And they were some of her strongest opposers.
  • These men were very upper-class refined. Or so they wanted to portray themselves. And what says ‘high society’ more than a portrait of oneself? So, it became tradition that each member of the club would have a portrait of themselves painted. And this would subsequently be given to Club Secretary Jacob Tonson to hang in his Putney house.
  • To further the notion of exclusivity, members had Sir Godfrey Kneller paint several of these portraits. The leading court painter even devised special dimensions for these portraits, which were known as kit-cats.

A Final Thought on the Kit-Cat Club

The portraits in this room are particularly fascinating. As explained by the National Portrait Gallery :

“Slightly larger than the traditional head and shoulders format, it allows enough space to include one or both hands. So, while the poses in the Kit-cat portraits may look similar, none are actually repeated. When hung together, the overall effect is of a unified club of equals, though each man retains his individuality through distinct gestures, props and costumes.”

Visit Art From Us Archive for Museum Guide collated by Divvya Nirula. Here you shall find more suggestions on where you should visit next. And also what you should see there.

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