It is always interesting and challenging to visit museum exhibitions and examine works created during different epochs. Each collection presents a unique chance to learn about history and the people who inhabited various periods, including their style of life and their interests. Every painting possesses its own intrinsic meaning to be analyzed and evaluated. I cannot simply look at a portrait to enjoy its beauty; my thoughts are all-encompassing as I try to imagine the whole story. This was the situation when I visited the Kimbell Art Museum and observed its collection of artworks from Antiquities, the Ancient Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Of the more than 300 works the museum offers, Henry Raeburn’s portrait, The Allen Brothers, attracted my attention on this occasion. A particular feature of this exhibition is the possibility not only to observe the work and analyze its technical aspects but also to read the associated historical background and obtain information about the artist and the people in the portrait. Raeburn’s Allen Brothers is not only a work of art but a source of information about aspects of life in the 18th century.
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My visit to the Kimbell began like any other visit in terms of buying a ticket and choosing which room to visit first. Despite the museum’s relatively small collection, I needed some time to take the first step. When I reached the South Gallery in the Kahn Building, I was impressed by the variety of artworks. Two reasons governed my decision to stop in front of Raeburn’s work. First, I admire 18th-century Scotland because of its evident transformations and intellectual progress. Second, I like paintings created using oil on canvas, especially portraits.
The Allen Brothers is a work of art that portrays two young Scottish boys playing a game that involves a hat and a stick (See Appendix). Even with close scrutiny, it was difficult to discern which of them was the younger, and I started making predictions. Next, I compared my results with the information given on the brochure near the painting and found that I was correct in thinking that the older boy is standing and the younger boy is seated (“Henry Raeburn”). While the boys are obviously occupied, they are also clearly able to decide whether to respond to a viewer or to continue playing.
I find it interesting to identify and analyze possible symbolism in the chosen portrait. For example, the younger boy holds a black hat in his hand. Although during that period of time, Scotland was famous for its blue bonnets, Raeburn’s virtuosity and free style of painting may offer an excuse for such a choice. The stick may be interpreted as a sign representing conflict and the desire of the country to carve its way to success and prosperity. Finally, even the different direction of one boy’s sight spurs the thought that the people of that historical period were free to choose and follow their demands and needs.
In general, this visit to the Kimbell Museum served as an educational and important moment in my life, giving me the chance to observe several new works of art and to improve my understanding of Scottish culture and history. Henry Raeburn left a significant mark in art due to his unpredictability and painting adventurism. His Allen Brothers can arguably be called one of the best portraits ever made, properly presenting the social, political, and cultural aspects of Scottish life.
“Henry Raeburn: The Allen Brothers (Portrait of James and John Lee Allen).” Kimbell Art Museum, Web.