Iconic Rembrandt painting innovatively lit at English Heritage site by TM Lighting

TM Lighting has worked with English Heritage to provide specialist art lighting for their milestone display ‘Rembrandt #nofilter’ at Kenwood House in Hampstead, London

The special display commemorates 350 years since Rembrandt’s death and celebrates the artist’s ‘Self-portrait with Two Circles’, a painting widely acknowledged as one of Rembrandt’s defining images and regarded by some as one of the world’s greatest works of art. The painting was recently on loan to Gagosian gallery for their exhibition in partnership with English Heritage, Visions of the Self: Rembrandt and Now.

TM Lighting design and manufacture award-winning picture lights and accent lights which incorporate advanced LED technology and a unique quality of light. For this commemorative display, TM Lighting used their high colour rendition LED Slim Light Pro Picture Light to illuminate the self-portrait ensuring the painting is evenly lit, the colours are rich and vibrant, and the medium is conserved. The TM Slim Light Pro is housed in a minimal 19mm diameter body and is complemented by excellent glare control. The targeted light distribution allows the use of a smaller body than that of larger, traditional style picture lights, without compromising on optical performance, comfortably lighting canvases of 4 metres in height.

English Heritage Curators put finishing touches on the new Rembrandt display at Kenwood House, Photography by Chris Ison

Andrew Molyneux, co-founder of TM Lighting, explained, “advising on how to light the art is only part of the story. The way that light is used in the room also affects the way that visitors observe the artwork. So, we also assisted making recommendations about the artwork positions and how they relate to each other, from a lighting perspective. Originally, the curators were going to place the contemporary artwork (a video interpretation) opposite the work. Careful consideration was given to positioning of artworks and the lighting to ensure there was no reflection from the video in the glass that might disrupt this extraordinary new viewing experience of Rembrandt’s self-portrait in full glory.”

Another consideration for the display was discovering there was nowhere to easily mount spotlights in the room. In view of this challenge, whilst being mindful of the fabric of the historic building, TM Lighting decided the most straight forward way to light the artwork was with a picture light, making use of wiring that was already existing in these locations to be able to do this.

Esme Whittaker, Curator (left) and Louise Cooling, Assistant Curator, put the final touches to English Heritage's Rembrandt #nofilter exhibition at Kenwood House, north London. Picture date: Tuesday October 1, 2019. Photograph by Christopher Ison for English Heritage ©

Integral to the brief from the English Heritage curators was to create a contemporary display of Rembrandt’s renowned self-portrait, to present the celebrated work in a new light both for new and existing audiences. The temporary replacement of the ornate, 18th-century, gilded frame with a simpler, ebonised frame led to the selection of a more contemporary picture light; TM Lighting’s Slim Light Pro.

An antique bronze finish was selected to fit in with the frame colouring. An additional, and hugely important consideration for the curators, is the conservation of the painting. The lighting experts at TM Lighting ensured the picture light Lux levels were precisely set in line with the conservation requirements for the temporary display.

Rembrandt #nofilter sees Self-Portrait with Two Circles displayed in relative isolation, alongside a new digital photomosaic of its own likeness. Rembrandt reinvented the genre of self-portraiture and he was incredibly prolific in this regard, making around 80 during his career. This new digital artwork will be comprised of ‘selfies’ taken by visitors to Kenwood, pitting Rembrandt’s timeless self-portrait against the ephemeral images of the ‘selfie age’ and positioning it as an exemplar of how old masters can still communicate in a powerful way with contemporary audiences.

Esmé Whittaker, Curator of Collections and Interiors for Kenwood comments: “We wanted to give visitors the opportunity to closely examine Rembrandt’s self-portrait in a new context and specialist art lighting was essential. TM Lighting’s advice about the best way to light the painting was invaluable – helping us to overcome the challenges of a top-lit historic room and the location of a digital artwork”

The self-portrait is a highlight of Kenwood‘s Iveagh Bequest. In 1925, Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, bought the house. The collection was bequeathed to the nation along with the house and grounds in 1927 making it open free of charge to the public, including the display of 62 of Lord Iveagh’s Old Master and British paintings.  Rembrandt #nofilter will run from 4 October 2019 to 12 January 2020. Find out more

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