It is fair to say that the popular television drama Downton Abbey has reawakened interest in the grand English estate—and aristocratic life—as never before. This weekend visitors to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston have a last chance to experience one of the grandest of all such houses in the exhibition “Houghton Hall: Portrait of an English Country House.”
Houghton Hall, located in Norfolk, northeast of London, has one of the great private art collections in England: Old Master paintings, portraits by 18th and 19th-century artists, Thomas Gainsborough to John Singer Sargent, and superb decorative arts, furnishings, and furniture.
This exhibition showcases 200 extraordinary objects from the house to give a sense of its spectacular interiors. Robert Walpole, England’s first prime minister built Houghton Hall, considered one of the finest Palladian houses, in the early 18th century and it remains the family estate of the marquesses of Cholmondeley.
Travelers to England can visit Houghton Hall (open May through mid-October) and take in its numerous gardens, a sculpture park filled with works by James Turrell, Stephen Cox, and Zhan Wang, as well as the splendid house. But if you can’t get to England until next spring, you have a chance to see the exhibition at the San Francisco Legion of Honor museum and in Nashville, at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, where the show travels next.
Mario R. Mercado is arts editor at Travel + Leisure.