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David Harewood, photo credit The Harper Edit

Harewood House announces a new commission in the Missing Portraits series, with a portrait of actor and writer David Harewood OBE.

6 March 2023, Leeds. This year, Harewood House continues its Open History programme with a newly commissioned portrait of actor David Harewood OBE. The portrait is part of the Missing Portraits series which launched in 2022 and addresses the lack of diverse representation within Harewood’s historic art collection. The specially commissioned portrait will be accompanied by an exhibition exploring David Harewood’s life and celebrating his career, including his role as an ambassador for mental health awareness and racial equality.

The Missing Portraits series seeks to redress the balance of portraits in the house by depicting contemporary sitters of African-Caribbean heritage who have connections to Harewood and the Lascelles family. Born in 1965 to Barbadian parents who arrived in Britain in 1957, David Harewood was raised in Birmingham and began his career as a film and stage actor in 1990. The actor is descended from individuals who were enslaved in the 18th-century on a Caribbean sugar plantation owned by the 2nd Earl of Harewood.

David Harewood has had a long relationship with Harewood House. In 2021, David visited the House as part of a Channel 5 series 1000 Years a Slave, in which he met with David Lascelles, 8th Earl of Harewood, to discuss both his and the House’s historic roots. The portrait, inspired by the formal style of 18th and 19th portraiture, will be displayed as part of the permanent collection and is produced by Leeds-based photographer and filmmaker Ashley Karrell.

In alliance with David Harewood’s campaigns around social justice and mental health, Harewood House is developing a wider programme towards building confidence and resilience in young people from diverse backgrounds across Leeds. Harewood House will be hosting an in-conversation event where David Harewood will discuss his recent book Maybe I Don’t Belong Here: A Memoir of Race, Identity, Breakdown and Recovery, published in 2021.

David Harewood OBE comments:

“To have my portrait presented at Harewood House brings on many complex emotions. It is a day that is well overdue for me and my ancestors, a day that sees their efforts and hard work finally acknowledged. I am pleased that we have reached a point when this can happen and I hope it might encourage positive change elsewhere.”

David Lascelles and Diane Howse, Earl and Countess of Harewood, comment:

“We’re delighted that David has agreed to be the second sitter in the Missing Portraits series. His links to Harewood are self-evident and we agree on the importance of sharing our histories, however uncomfortable this might first appear. Being honest about the past is the only way to start to address the prejudices of the present and help build a better future.”

Missing Portraits is part of Open History, an ongoing commitment to promoting and celebrating equality, diversity and inclusion, and to combating racism. Harewood’s programme engages Harewood’s audiences by tackling urgent contemporary issues, working with artists to encourage understanding, celebrate diversity and explore Harewood’s colonial past. The first portrait in this series was of Dr Arthur France OBE, founder of Leeds West Indian Carnival. This was displayed in a special exhibition at Harewood, before becoming part of the House’s permanent collection. Harewood House partnered with Intelligence2 to host an in-person conversation exploring the power of portraiture in representing Britain’s history. Panellists Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, journalist Moya Lothian-McLean, artist Thomas J Price, and David Lascelles discussed the importance of portraiture and its power in representing Britain’s complex history. The conversation was chaired by chaired by author Yassmin Abdel-Magied. To listen to a recording of the event, please click here.


Notes to editors:
For further press information on Harewood, please contact:
Brunswick Arts | Imogen Walford & Tom Smeeton
Harewood@brunswickgroup.com | + 44 (0)7467 650396

Harewood Open History aims to open-up stories about our heritage, celebrating people of colour who have deep-rooted links to Harewood. The series is part of an effort to better reflect and understand the history of Harewood, which was built upon the vast fortune made by Henry Lascelles through the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Harewood acknowledges the roots of its wealth and seeks to address the historic lack of diversity within its art collection. In support of these aims, Harewood works with artists from diverse backgrounds in order that we can use our past and its platform now to talk and open-up conversation about inclusion, representation and equality in society today.

Harewood House Trust is an independent educational charity that constantly re-imagines what makes a historic house and its landscape relevant in the 21st century, by provoking different perspectives and conversations on its history, landscape and collections, as a place that can enrich all our lives, responsible for conserving it for the future. The Trust and the Lascelles family have been at the forefront of acknowledging the estate’s colonial past for over 25 years. This commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, and to combating racism, remains stronger than ever and is central to the Trust’s programming aims, as well as to its staff and volunteers, and working with the communities in and around Leeds.

David Harewood OBE is an actor, director, author and activist. With a career spanning almost 35 years, David has performed on stage in some of the most prestigious theatres and across TV and Film, including award-winning TV series and films Homeland, Blood Diamond, The Night Manager, and appearing as Othello at the National Theatre. David has become a driving force for systematic and cultural change, exploring important and difficult subjects within his documentaries, such as ‘David Harewood: Psychosis and Me’, ‘Could Britian Ever Have a Black Prime Minister’, and ‘Why is Covid Killing People of Colour?’. David has worked with global charity UNICEF and helped raise awareness as well as millions of pounds for many charities, organisations and individuals across our collective global communities. King Charles III awarded David an OBE in his first New Year Honours of 2023 for his services to drama and charity.

David Lascelles and Diane House, Earl and Countess of Harewood, are committed to speaking openly and honestly about the historic source of the wealth that built Harewood and to encouraging relationships with a range of artists to explore, challenge and discuss its legacy. Artists they have previously worked with include Geraldine Connor and her ground-breaking theatrical spectacular Carnival Messiah, sculptors Sokari Douglas Camp and Thomas J Price, glass artist Chris Day and Sonia Boyce, winner of the Golden Lion prize at the 2022 Venice Biennale.

Ashley Karrell is an award-winning director, photographer, film and theatre-maker with a career spanning 20 years. He has produced a broad spectrum of work that includes visual art, commercial and experimental video productions and mass participation pieces. Karrell graduated from the Northern Film School in 2005 and is now the director of the production company Panoptical and Expression Of You CIC, where he delivers large and small-scale productions at public exhibitions, events and festivals, and pursues work, which explores ideas of community, is socially engaging and internationally-minded. His name is well known for the film and documentary of Geraldine Connor’s epic masterpiece Carnival Messiah, which debuted at the Leeds International Film Festival 2017. Its West Indies premier was at the Film Festival in Trinidad in September 2018, where it won the People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary.