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Notes

John Varley at Harewood House

John Varley (1778 – 1842) was a key figure in the history of the development of British watercolours. From 1800 he studied at Dr Monro’s Academy and made early sketching tours to Wales from 1798 – 1802.  He was initially strongly influenced by Thomas Girtin. A founder member of the Society of Watercolour Artists in London in 1804, he would go on to exhibit over 700 works there. As a teacher, he impacted the next generation of watercolourists, counting among his successful pupils David Cox, Copley Fielding, John Linnell,
Samuel Palmer and Peter de Wint.

Varley first came into contact with Edward, Viscount Lascelles, son of the first Earl of Harewood and an avid collector of watercolours, in 1801. Two years later, in 1803, he visited Yorkshire and painted a number of accomplished views of Harewood House and one of the Castle.  This group of works was an important early commission for Varley. The watercolours displayed on this wall – Harewood House from the North West and Harewood House from the South West – are of considerable scale and ambition. They give far more architectural detail than the earlier more famous works by J.M.W Turner, also commissioned by Edward Lascelles.  The smaller Harewood House from the South by Varley shows the house from a distance, set within the landscape with a felled tree and woodsman in the foreground.  Boldly painted, it is undoubtedly influenced by Turner’s Harewood House from the South East but the tones are paler (displayed on the central wall).

It was only natural that the romantic medieval ruined castle, dating back to 1366, would attract visiting artists and it was painted by Varley, as well as his predecessors Turner and Girtin.  In Varley’s work, the castle is distant, partially covered in foliage and the broad landscape and foreground figures dominate the composition (displayed above the fireplace).

A further watercolour of the ‘model’ village at Harewood is also attributed to Varley or his circle (displayed next to the fireplace). The village drew the attention of the pastel painter, John Russell, who visited in 1802 and noted that the buildings were all ‘of stone, with a regularity and neatness that I never saw exceeded with a wide main street’, before being escorted through the arch by the steward to visit the house itself. Edward, Viscount Lascelles, who died in 1814, also owned an early view of Snowdon by Varley, but does not seem to have patronised him later in his career.  Varley went on to write a number of important books on watercolour painting, including Treatise on the Principles of Landscape Design (1816 – 18), and invented his own range of colours. This fine group of watercolours illustrates a key early commission when the artist was still painting views of country houses before developing an accomplished landscape style influenced by the 17th century artist Claude Lorrain.

Carnival Messiah at Harewood House

In September 2007 to celebrate the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Harewood House staged a production of Carnival Messiah a huge spectacular theatrical event. It’s creator was Geraldine Connor a theatre director, educationalist and musician from Trinidad.

Harewood’s David Lascelles was the executive producer and instigator in bringing Carnival Messiah to Harewood “We wanted to acknowledge our history but at the same time to celebrate the present, I don’t know of any more exuberant, more spectacular, more inclusive expression of contemporary Caribbean culture than Carnival Messiah.

Carnival Messiah 

Carnival Messiah is a radical reinvention of George Fredrick Handel’s Messiah the production fuses together traditional and contemporary music, dance and carnival practices.  The idea came from Geraldine’s desire to celebrate both her Caribbean and British roots.

It was first created with students at Bretton Hall, Leeds University where Geraldine was a lecturer and then performed at the West Yorkshire playhouse in 1999 and then in Trindad in 2003 and 2004.

The 2007 the production at Harewood House was performed over two weeks in a big top tent in the grounds of the Harewood Estate.  With a cast of over a 100 community performers from Chapeltown, Leeds and legendary international artists.

Now a cultural landmark in both Leeds and the Caribbean, Carnival Messiah set the tone for what would become Geraldine’s enduring legacy, one of equality, diversity, empowerment, and inclusion in society through the Arts.

Geraldine Connor Foundation

After Geraldine Connor died prematurely in 2011, an arts organisation was established to continue her legacy.

The Geraldine Connor Foundation Geraldine’s works with people from all backgrounds to develop creative projects. Core to GCF’s work is the creation of opportunities in the Arts for talented young performers from diverse and challenging backgrounds. GCF’s creative projects cover the widest possible spectrum of art forms, and the organisation’s unique events and performances aim to enrich people’s lives.

Ultimately, GCF seeks to grow the family which Geraldine herself was at the heart of; a family of individuals whose lives were changed by her intense creative energy, her ability to see potential in people and her enormous generosity of spirit.

gcfoundation.co.uk

 Carnival Messiah The Film

To celebrate 10 years since Carnival Messiah was last performed at Harewood House a film of the production has been created. Ashley Karrell the film maker was a friend and mentee of Geraldine’s and directed this lasting legacy.

The full version of the film can be seen as part of Leeds International Film Festival on Tuesday 7th November, 8.15pm at Leeds Town Hall for tickets please contact leedstownhall.co.uk

How the Victorian era influenced Harewood Bird Garden

Harewood House in Yorkshire has a bird garden and farm

This year, Harewood House and grounds are taking a closer look at the Victorian era inspired by ITV’s period drama Victoria, which used Harewood as a major location. Although when the young Princess Victoria visited Harewood in 1835, the Bird Garden had not yet been built, (opening some 135 years later!), the era still had a major influence on the zoo you can see today.

It was during this period that animal collections and scientific study of the natural world began to develop. Zoological collections in Britain were beginning to evolve with menageries of species kept for display and travelling circuses full of dangerous and exotic animals becoming more common place.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) was founded in 1826, shortly before Victoria’s coronation (1837 – 1901). As a leader in the field, ZSL’s aim was to promote the study of animals and their ecology, an ambition which remains at the heart of zoological collections today. London Zoo officially opened its gates to the public in 1828, giving people the opportunity see animals from across the world and learn more about exotic species.

The Victorians were pioneering in promoting research, discovery and conservation of the natural world and organisations founded at the time are still of great importance and relevance today. In the later part of Victoria’s reign, the Plumage League was founded (1889) by Emily Williamson, to combat the killing of birds to use their feathers as fashion accessories. She later joined forces with the Fur and Feather League (1891) to create the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), now a leading light in avian conservation across the world.

The era saw unparalleled developments in our understanding of the natural world with great naturalists such as Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace making discoveries that would fundamentally change how we perceive the world around us.

Since 1970, the Bird Garden at Harewood has promoted an understanding of birds and their environment through conservation, preservation and education, very much as the pioneering zoologists of the Victorian times had done. Today, we host a number of research projects each year with students coming from Askham Bryan College, Leeds Beckett University and University of Leeds among others. Studies on the Chilean flamingos, Humboldt penguins and our wide range of pheasants are either published in journals, ongoing, or in the process of being completed. These projects are all focussed towards improving the husbandry and welfare of the animals in our care. We often receive correspondence from other universities and zoos asking us to assist with projects, the results of which could be put towards the protection of birds and their natural habitats.

Visit the zoo at Harewood House in Yorkshire to see rare birds

We recently welcomed a pair of Omei Shan Liocichla, a small Chinese songbird, to the Bird Garden. This species is listed being vulnerable to extinction in their native habitat and have been incorporated into a European Studbook which will help their ongoing survival.

With this addition, Harewood Bird Garden now partakes in 12 coordinated breeding programmes and species monitors, with 16 of the species kept in the Bird Garden classified as threatened on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of endangered species. These can be seen living with another Chinese species, the silver pheasant in the aviaries below the crane paddocks.

Go to the zoo at Harewood House in Leeds to see rare birds

In the neighbouring aviary we have two new red billed blue magpies from Nepal. These are striking blue birds with long striped tails. They have settled in very well and are currently nesting, with two eggs as I write this.

Visit Harewood House near Harrogate to see palm cockatoos

Another of our European Breeding Programme species is the palm cockatoos. These charismatic black birds with their bright pink cheeks have laid an egg again this year, the third year in succession making them the one of only two breeding pairs in the UK. The last two eggs have been successfully reared and we hope for a repeated performance again this year from our confident young family.

For those of you who want to know more about the Bird Garden and to support our ongoing conservation work, there are great opportunities you can access. From Bird Adoption to penguin feeding or our brand new Junior Keeper Experience launched this season, your support helps us to continue our charitable work, maintain and developing Harewood for the public benefit.

Thank you.

Notes for an Axminster Carpet by Rommi Smith

See Axminster carpets at Harewood in Yorkshire

A poem for Harewood’s Axminster carpets

The acclaimed poet Rommi Smith has written a new poem in response to Harewood House Trust’s on-going reassessment of its historic Axminster carpets and as part of a partnership with Leeds University’s Yorkshire Year of the Textile programme.

These unique carpets have survived since the late 18th century and were specifically commissioned for the Music Room and Yellow Drawing Room –  both designed by the architect Robert Adam. They are very rare examples of carpets still shown in the original rooms that they were designed to compliment.

Rommi Smith wrote the poem Notes for an Axminster Carpet and performed it here on the 20th May 2017 accompanied by the composer and musician Jenni Molloy.

The poem is composed of a short series of imagined notes as if written by Robert Adam, to Thomas Whitty, proprietor of the Axminster Factory, Devon, where the carpets originated from.

The poems make reference to classical motifs that can be seen in the rooms for which the carpets were specially created and to historical notes written about the carpets and their rooms.

These poem-notes, could be considered directorial, almost theatrical, notes from Adam to Whitty. The poem, in homage to the carpets, is also site-specific, therefore, each section of the poem should, ideally, be read in the location for which it was written and intended to be performed.

Notes for an Axminster Carpet
By Rommi Smith

 ‘I was surprised to find such a little paltry place the origin of so much magnificence. The manufactory is all the property of one man. The work is chiefly done by women […] They were then employed in weaving a large carpet for Lord Harewood, late Mr Lascelles, which was to cost one hundred and forty pounds.’ – Reverend ED Clarke on his visit to the Axminster factory, 1791.

‘I […] had engaged myself for tomorrow […]’ Robert Adam, London: June, 7, 1788.

Note 1: Hallway

Mr. Thomas Whitty, Proprietor

Axminster Factory

Silver Street

Devon

England

 

Dear Sir,

please accept –

these notes for an Axminster carpet.

I send them, accompanied by these drawings,

not so much directions, but as artefacts of longing:

what we make of the moment

we leave for the pleasure of tomorrow.

 

Envisage (if you will), a hall

beyond the grounds that time will anoint

with Capability’s hands,

where a man might stand

as though he were the first at all;

 

my namesake; a song of alabaster:

earth-footed, yet jubilant face in heavenward devotion

to the firmament scored with stars on staves of Hallelujah.

 

This, then, Sir is the music, this is the pitch

from which this first note for the design emerges.

 

Note II: The Terrace

Vista our trade, desire our bread –

these are the dreams from which to craft the threads:

the earth the warp, the sky the weft

with which to divine Nature’s Carpet.

 

Note III: Yellow Drawing Room

To the tune of yellow silk (colour of July, or a midday

Badian sun) this carpet must succumb.

It will have a central, circular medallion

containing a bloom-head encased in anthemion

set into the heart of a four-pointed star.

Behind it, unfurling acanthus,

within dusk-rose and olive chain –

rosette borders, panels at each end.

 

This, Sir, will be the design, complimented

by the clean, yet ostentatious lines

of Mr. Chippendale’s imagination.

Note IV: The Music Room

At its heart, a central motif extending out

into a parasol of dawn-pink and spring leaves,

til the ‘unheard melodies’ of lyres,

which take their pitch from an Italian-green universe,

where large planets of rosette are circled by constellations

of light. The edges of this galaxy form an outer pole and ribbon stripe.

 

Carpet should be to ceiling – as earth is to sky.

With this carpet, one should expect

to better understand why we bury a man

in order for his soul to rise

and occupy the glory of a place in heaven –

 

yours sincerely,

Mr. Robert Adam.

 

Filming at Harewood House, 17th – 20th May 2017

Visit Yorkshire to see film locations from Victoria at Harewood

As you may know, Harewood House has been used as a major set for ITV’s flagship period drama “Victoria”. Throughout the first series, the production saw Harewood transformed into Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace. The programme was viewed by over 7 million people here in Britain and has also been broadcast in over 100 countries worldwide. Series two is currently being filmed across Yorkshire and between the 17th May – 20th May Harewood will once again become Buckingham Palace. This will cause some changes to visitor access to the House.

To allow the film crew to transform Below Stairs of Harewood House into the kitchens and corridors of Buckingham Palace, we will close Below Stairs during the 17th – 20th May. Access to the Terrace Gallery, Terrace Café and Gavin Fernandes’ exhibition, The Empire Line, will still be possible on 17th, 19th and 20th May.

On 18th May, the film crew are using the southern exteriors of the House. The Terrace will be used so access to this garden and all areas of Below Stairs will not be possible. The State Floor will close slightly earlier, with last admission at 3pm.

To ensure that you can enjoy all of the House, we will be opening the State Floor to all visitors on the 17th May – 20th May at no additional cost. This will allow you to see the magnificent rooms and the Victorian Harewood exhibitions. There will be some disruption to rooms on the State Floor on the 19th May as the Main Library is prepared for filming. Please talk to the team and refer to visitor information when you visit.

Filming generates vital income for Harewood and it makes a significant difference to the charity. We would like to thank all our visitors in advance for their patience and we hope that you enjoy seeing the House being used by a large film production like “Victoria”.