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Framing the Renaissance

Framing the Renaissance

The Harewood House Gallery contains an outstanding collection of Renaissance paintings, many of which are by Venetian artists. These were collected during and after the First World War by Henry George Charles Lascelles, who later became the 6th Earl of Harewood, after he had unexpectedly inherited a great fortune from his great-uncle, the 2nd Marquess of Clanricarde, in 1916. When choosing which pictures to acquire the 6th Earl gave careful consideration to how each work would be displayed in his home. Initially, this was at Chesterfield House in London, and later at Harewood House, where he moved to in 1930 following the death of the 5th Earl of Harewood.

Frames have an enormous impact on the display of pictures, yet they are rarely given much attention. The 6th Earl of Harewood appears to have been a keen and involved interior designer, and he recognised the importance of frames from the early days of his collecting. On 10 June 1917, while he was on military duty in the trenches of the First World War, the 6th Earl wrote to his mother, the 5th Countess of Harewood, about one of his recent purchases:

‘I think the frames very important to make the best of the pictures. The Greco’s frame is wrong and will have to be put right but I have not made up my mind about it.’

When he purchased Allegory by El Greco in 1917 the painting was housed in a gold frame. The 6th Earl later had this replaced with a second-hand antique frame, which is much darker and features gilded foliate corners and centers, in which the picture remains today. The dark frame compliments the dramatic lighting of the picture, and is of a similar style to those produced during El Greco’s lifetime in sixteenth-century Spain. The 6th Earl’s choice of an historical frame demonstrates his interest in the origin of paintings in his collection, and his desire to ensure that each picture was shown to its best.

When antique frames were not available, the 6th Earl occasionally commissioned new frames to be made in an appropriate historical style. This is true of the frame around the picture by Alvise Vivarini and Marco Basaiti, called Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist and St Jerome. When he purchased this picture in 1917 it was housed in a gold frame which was much later in date than the picture itself. The 6th Earl commissioned a new frame in 1931 from the Florentine frame-maker Ferruccio Vannoni, with assistance from his art advisor Dr Tancred Borenius, who had many contacts in the international art world and spoke fluent Italian. Vannoni’s work was highly regarded in Britain, and he was employed by trustees of the National Gallery and by leading art dealers. The design for the frame around the Vivarini and Basaiti is based on a specific early sixteenth-century Venetian model. This type of architectural frame is known as a tabernacle frame, and there are several examples in the Gallery at Harewood. The 6th Earl asked Vannoni to give the frame an ‘antique patina’ so that the fresh gilding did not stand out too brightly next to the older frames in his collection.

 

In 1932 the 6th Earl commissioned a second frame from Vannoni, this time to house his portrait of Benedetto Soranzo by Tintoretto. That painting had previously hung in the Dining Room of Chesterfield House, the 6th Earl’s London home, where it was fixed into an architectural frame above the chimneypiece. When the picture was brought to Harewood House in the early 1930s it therefore did not have its own portable frame, which it would need in order to be displayed. Vannoni was instructed to produce a different sort of frame for this portrait, again ensuring that it was historically accurate to the picture. Vannoni’s invoice describes the commission as being for ‘a frame entirely carved in wood with decoration pierced in relief. Gilded in gold, double thickness toned antique.’ It is interesting to compare the frame around this Tintoretto portrait with the antique (though probably not original) frame around Titian’s Francis I, as the two are presently hung symmetrically either side of the chimneypiece in the Gallery at Harewood House. Titian and Tintoretto were contemporaries both working in Venice during the sixteenth-century, and it is therefore appropriate that these two portraits – which are of different sizes but both approximately square – should be housed in strikingly similar frames.

Though some do appear similar, none of the frames around the Renaissance pictures in the Gallery at Harewood House are identical. The 6th Earl of Harewood displayed his collection in frames which reflected the time and place of each painting’s original creation, and the frames are therefore just as varied – and arguably as interesting and beautiful – as the paintings themselves.

 

Gemma Plumpton, PhD Researcher

Harewood takes part in BBC Art That Made Us Festival

Chris Day in All Saint's Church. Picture Credit Charlotte Graham.

Harewood is taking part in the BBC’s Art That Made Us Festival, which runs throughout April. Museums, libraries, archives and galleries are opening their doors to tell the stories behind their astounding collections. The festival complements the broadcast of a major new BBC documentary series Art That Made Us, which explores Britain’s creative history.

As part of the festival, Harewood has worked with the BBC Rewind team to produce a digital feature which delves into the story behind Under The Influence by Chris Day, a work part of his 2021 Craft Spotlight exhibition at Harewood.

Read the full story below or head to the BBC Art That Made Us website.

Harewood’s collection will also feature in the accompanying documentary series Art That Made Us, as sculptor Thomas J Price visits Harewood House to see the elaborate Robert Adam-designed interiors, Joshua Reynolds portraits and Thomas Chippendale furniture, paid for through fortunes made from the transatlantic slave trade.

The series launches on Thurs 7 April at 9pm, with the whole series available on iPlayer shortly afterwards.

Art That Made Us Festival

Culture really is around every corner in Leeds

Revealed: Culture really is around every corner in Leeds

5 April 2022: Leeds’s cultural venues are uncovering culture like never before as they come together to celebrate the diverse offering of the city and encourage residents and visitors alike to join in with the cultural fun.

Named as the UK’s most vibrant city and placed in the top 100 places to visit in the world, Leeds will see its cultural institutions come together this spring as part of its Culture Around Every Corner campaign.

Home to over 40 cultural institutions representing the very best of culture in the UK, this campaign is led by Visit Leeds in collaboration with Culture Consortium Leeds (CCL) and other organisations such as Art Hostel, East Street Arts, Phoenix Dance Theatre and Chapel FM Arts Centre which together create the unique landscape of Leeds’ cultural scene.

An experience like no other, Leeds is a leading centre for culture, boasting a scene of international food & drink, street art, country house estates, ground-breaking new performances, legendary music festivals and shows and renowned global sport.

Revealing that culture is around every corner in Leeds, the destination management organisation for the city, Visit Leeds and all cultural partners have uncovered that visitors are never further than a 10 minute walk away from a cultural attraction in Leeds.

Highlighting the Leeds experience with the message that culture in Leeds is open, Culture Around Every Corner is challenging residents to explore and rekindle a love for the great culture that is on their doorstep, whilst visitors have an immense opportunity to try something new and uniquely ‘Leeds’.

Edward Appleyard, Director of Engagement at Harewood House Trust and Co-Chair of CCL’s Marketing and Communications group, commented:  “As a city that’s in demand, Culture Around Every Corner has been designed to bring the cultural venues of our city together and show visitors the breadth of cultural experiences there are to enjoy. We’re extremely excited for the launch and our venues working more closely than ever before to celebrate this incredible, culture-rich city.”

Hannah Hughes, Marketing and Communications Director at Leeds Playhouse and Co-Chair of CCL’s Marketing and Communications group also commented: “We’re delighted to be working with a variety of our cultural venues in the city and we can’t wait to reveal what Leeds has to offer as part of this campaign. There’s a real appetite for venues to work in collaboration with one another and support each other and this demonstrates how fantastic the Leeds cultural community is.”

 

This campaign comes on the back of two years of lockdowns, and the message is loud and clear – culture in Leeds is back for good.

Some of the cultural highlights for this season (April to June) include: The riotous Hedwig and the Angry Inch at Leeds Playhouse, directed by Jamie Fletcher and starring drag queen Davina De Campo in April; a solo exhibition of new work by Nigerian artist Bubu Ogisi at The Tetley; the Henry Moore Institute celebrates the UN Year of Glass with an exhibition of contemporary glass sculpture; Leeds Museums and Galleries host workshops, trails and activities alongside exhibitions including ‘Eileen Agar: Angel of Anarchy’; Opera North’s version of Wagner’s most mysterious drama Parsifal opens in June; Howard Assembly Rooms present the best in eclectic and international music every weekend and host musicians and singers from the asylum community for Refugee Week in June; Leeds Grand Theatre’s stellar line-up sees Broadway hit School of Rock, the National Theatre’s award-winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, plus a bit of razzle dazzle in Chicago

Outside the city centre Harewood House Biennial this year is Radical Acts: Why Craft Matters, an exhibition showcasing how small radical acts can have a massive impact on the world and Yorkshire Sculpture Park present David Nash: Full Circle until June.

And if you are looking for activities to entertain the family you can try: Family favourite The Gruffalo at Leeds Playhouse in April; Royal Armouries’ jousting tournaments and Medieval Easter with the chance to try some sword skills; Leeds Young Film Festival 2022 at the Carriageworks combining games with film screenings; explore dark and murky disease ridden streets, and ask ‘Can Robots Care?’ at the sometimes gruesome but always fascinating Thackray Museum of Medicine; and at the first direct Arena, The Masked Singer comes to the live stage plus a host of full-pelt live music and more.

Culture Around Every Corner precedes Leeds’ Year of Culture: Leeds 2023. Designed to ‘let culture loose’, Leeds 2023 will see 12 signature events alongside a multitude of creative experiences take place across the city in a celebration of all things culture. Made for everyone, local, national, and international artists and communities will be coming together to create a year-long celebration unique to Leeds. Gearing up to the Year of Culture, the Culture Around Every Corner campaign is just the start of what’s to come.

To find more about Culture Around Every Corner and to plan your next trip, visit www.visitleeds.co.uk/culture-around-every-corner

 

ENDS

For more information, please contact VisitLeeds@ilkagency.com

Notes to Editors:

Visit Leeds is the official Destination Management Organisation for the city of Leeds, which aims to showcase the breadth of cultural attractions, innovative food & drink destinations and extensive shopping facilities on offer in Leeds and its surrounding areas. Its vision is for the city to be known as a world-class, modern and historic European destination with a reputation for a vibrant and creative cultural scene set against the backdrop of rich heritage and outstanding architecture.

As the second largest metropolitan area and one of the fastest growing cities in the UK outside of London, Leeds attracted over 30 million visitors in 2019 from both the UK and abroad. Its location and exceptional national and international transport links make it the ideal getaway for a variety of visitors to the Yorkshire region and beyond.

Not only is Leeds one of the greenest cities in Europe, it also ranks as the third best shopping destination in the UK outside of London as breath-taking Victorian arcades sit alongside iconic luxury brands and well-known high street retailers.

Leeds is brimming with a wealth of culture, history and diversity, having been home to the UK’s first West Indian Carnival back in 1967. The city’s rich culture is also reflected in the plethora of live events. From world-class organisations; Opera North, Northern Ballet, to unrivalled live music experiences and hilarious comedy, Leeds truly is a treasure trove of live entertainment.

Leeds is also notably known as a world-class sporting destination, having hosted the World Triathlon Series, The Cricket World Cup and The Ashes, while this year will see the city host the World Triathlon Series, Rugby League World Cup 2021 and the British Transplant Games. Leeds is also home to Leeds United Football Club, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and Rugby League’s Leeds Rhinos.

Over the past 15 years, regeneration has modernised the city centre, while complementing its incredible architecture and heritage. The city is now synonymous with the very best England has to offer; bursting with life and cultural energy.

 

For more information, visit: www.visitleeds.co.uk     

 

Culture Consortium Leeds 

Established to network Leeds’ greatest cultural offerings together with a shared ambition and a passion for the city, Culture Consortium Leeds includes 17 venues, theatres, visitor attractions, museums, galleries, performance arts organisations and others who harness the power of great culture in Leeds to entertain and engage over 4 million people every year and generate £135 million for the local economy. 

Members included in Culture Around Every Corner are: Harewood House Trust, Royal Armouries, Leeds Playhouse, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Leeds Museums & Galleries, Temple Newsham, Lotherton Hall, Leeds Heritage Theatres, The Tetley, The Carriageworks, Millennium Square, Leeds Town Hall, University of Leeds Galleries, Opera North, Northern Ballet, Henry Moore Institute and Thackray Museum of Medicine.

 

Harewood Stands with Ukraine

Support Ukraine in our Bookshop

By donating or purchasing a book in our volunteer run second-hand bookshop, from now until the end of April, you will be directly helping those in need of help, food, asylum, shelter and care, who have been displaced or harmed by the war in Ukraine. Throughout April, all bookshop takings will be donated to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. Ukraine’s flag will also fly proudly over Harewood House during this time. Help us make a difference to all of those living through this atrocious conflict.

Harewood’s bookshop contributes around £20,000 a year to Harewood House Trust – the charity charged with looking after this wonderful place, conserving it for the future and with opening it up to as many people as possible.

As somewhere built on the profits of atrocities in the past – the original wealth used to build this House created through the Transatlantic slave trade – Harewood continues, today, to lift-up marginalised voices; to promote equality, diversity, inclusion and fairness for all.
Through our programme and our actions, we have the capacity to tell human stories, stir emotions and navigate complex situations, to inspire empathy and support.

Thank you for supporting Harewood House Trust, and for supporting those in need in Ukraine.

 

Harewood House Trust registered charity in England no 517753
Disasters Emergency Committee registered charity in England no 1062638

Personal, surprising and optimistic: what you can expect from Radical Acts, with curator Hugo Macdonald and Trust Director Jane Marriott

Two people central to Radical Acts are Jane Marriott, the Director of Harewood House Trust, and Hugo Macdonald, the exhibition curator.

We sat down for a chat with Jane and Hugo, to look back on the evolution of Radical Acts and find out what visitors can expect.

Thank you both for finding the time to chat, especially in these busy two weeks before Radical Acts opens! Where did the idea for the Biennial come from?

Jane Marriott: Harewood House Trust is a charity and a museum, and it’s been set up as such since 1986. Our purpose is to conserve the House, the gardens and the wonderful collections. But more than that, we want to create exhibitions that excite our visitors, introducing them to new things, new artists, new ideas.

And so back in 2018 we decided that we wanted to do an exhibition about craft. It’s really interesting how many people have become interested in craft, in thinking about materials and in showing their support of local makers and artists. And of course, Harewood House, built in the late 1700s, has the most incredible craftsmanship from Chippendale furniture, to Robert Adam interiors. to John Carr architecture. So we thought Harewood is the perfect place to continue that great tradition of craftsmanship. When we started talking about the exhibition, we got brilliant feedback from people in the field, saying that makers and crafts in this country need that platform.

How did Hugo become involved?

Jane: What was really refreshing in the first conversation I had with Hugo was that, because his background is in writing, he puts craft within the context of how we live today. From that first conversation, I knew that he wasn’t just a wonderful curator, just picking beautiful objects; we’d be working with someone who would really take a step back and challenge us to think about craft in a different way. And so that’s when we invited Hugo to do the first Biennial, Useful/Beautiful, which was shown in 2019.

Hugo, can you tell us what you thought of Harewood when you first arrived and what inspires you about Harewood?

Hugo Macdonald: On my first visit I was overwhelmed, just like a lot of people probably are when they first come to a property of such magnificence. Every time I visit, I feel like I learn something new. There are so many layers not just to what you see, but also what you discover about people who have lived and worked in the House. The craftsmanship has been added to over decades and generations, centuries even. That’s where I find the challenge in curating the Biennial צ how do you introduce a contemporary layer that makes sense for what exists there already, but also brings something of today into the mix? How can we help people understand Harewood’s historic stories, but also put them in the context of contemporary life? How do we keep Harewood feeling alive?

How did you decide what to do for the second Biennial?

Jane: It’s not a case of saying, here’s what we want, Hugo, can you please do that? It’s a series of conversations. For the first Biennial, we invited multiple makers to respond to the House; we agreed that the format worked, but that this time we wanted to focus on a smaller number of really special makers. We also decided to exhibit pieces outdoors as well as indoors.

Our discussions began pre-Covid, thinking about the environmental crisis and what the role of these great estates can be in helping with that; to give this platform to great makers to talk about how craft can make a difference with sustainability, regenerative design, those sorts of topics. And then, of course, Covid came along and whilst we didn’t shift from those themes, we created a more nuanced response, which Hugo is very well placed to talk about more.

Hugo: The world was changing quite quickly, and our Biennial was an opportunity to address other connected subject matters that were coming to the surface. For example, how we think about well-being on a personal but also social and environmental level; and Black Lives Matter. The murder of George Floyd was a catalyst for many more conversations about racial and social injustice and given Harewood’s origins, we really wanted to include that as part of our exhibition. A lot of these subjects are things that craft deals with in a very open way, and craft can help ask important questions.

With that in mind, we decided to highlight people and projects who are engaged with asking questions about climate change and about society: how we relate to ourselves, the environment, each other. We called it Radical Acts because the word radical comes from the Latin word radix, which means roots; and each of the projects in the Biennial explores how things from the past can be a way of understanding the present. We have some very big names in the world of craft and we have some graduate students; it’s important to us that we are a platform that celebrates people at the top of their game, but also emerging interesting voices too.

Jane, what has surprised you about how Radical Acts has come together?

Jane: Probably how the makers bring such a wide variety of stories – very personal stories.

For example. we spent several hours speaking to Fernando Laposse, who talks about this incredible cooperative that he’s worked with in a village in Mexico, which is where he was born. He works with women who use the waste material from growing heritage corn to make these incredible luxury objects which are sold all around the world. His passion for the story and the women and this incredible cooperative really struck a nerve with me.

Then there’s Eunhye Ko, who is working with us as a younger maker coming into her career, with objects such as hair dryers and everyday electrical items. And you think, well, how on earth is that going to fit into a Biennial? Why will anyone be interested in that? But she works with them in in a very personal, creative way to challenge perceptions of things that we would throw away or replace much more quickly, like hairdryers or hoovers or everyday electrical items.

So I think the surprise for me is the variety, how personal those stories are and how we can relate to them. And I think people will really, really enjoy these 16 different stories from makers and feel a lot of empathy with them.

Hugo, how do you want people to feel when they visit Radical Acts?

Hugo: It has always been very important to us that we create a positive exhibition, an optimistic exhibition that feels entertaining and interesting, and that makes people feel like we can all do small things that join together to make a big difference to help address some of these challenges that we face in life. It is, like Jane says, a surprising exhibition, but we’re not telling people what to do. We are inviting people to come and see how these crafts-people are working in different ways to think about possible futures. And each of the exhibitors has a simple message behind their work that we hope will connect with visitors to Harewood, that visitors will take these ideas back home and think about how they relate to their own lives.

So, for example, Good Foundations International says water is precious. We mustn’t take it for granted. Good Foundations International go into communities who don’t have fresh water and help them to discover local sources, then build skills and businesses in the community to make ceramic water filters, which is an ancient technology for cleaning dirty water. Good Foundations International see firsthand what the impact is on people’s lives when they don’t have access to fresh water, and they alert privileged people to the fact that it’s a resource that should not be taken for granted. That’s one example of a simple message that we hope will connect with people because most of us switch on a tap without even thinking about it.

Hopefully people will reflect on the exhibition for a long time afterwards, and it might influence the small choices we make every day.

Hugo: Absolutely. I feel like exhibitions should be starting points rather than something that begins and ends. I want to open people’s eyes and minds to think about things slightly differently, or to understand how things connect; and to always feel included in that discussion. Never to feel like they are being lectured at or told. We really want to use the Biennial as a way of inviting people into Harewood and making them feel as welcome as possible. And like I said before, to introduce stories into this environment that are surprising, but also very relevant.

What would you say to each visitor as they view the exhibition?

Jane: I encourage you to experience the exhibition as a set of very personal stories, that will talk about that person or that studio’s approach to craft and what’s important to them. What you will hear is those makers saying it in their own voice. I suspect it will surprise a lot of people. I hope some of the choices seem quite bold and some will be quite poignant and quite thoughtful, like Mac Collins and his very personal response to the house and his own history and heritage. But there are also moments of just sheer joy and beautiful objects that are a window into it that particular maker and their achievements.

If I saw the visitor afterwards, I’d remind them that we’ve also got several podcasts and films with the makers – so you can return to those craftspeople who really stuck in your mind and inspired you to do something.

Hugo: One of my favourite things in the exhibition is actually not an exhibit. We have built a blank wall in the Servants’ Hall where we ask the question, What is your radical act? We hope this will encourage visitors to think about what they do in their day to day lives, and that could be something as simple as having a reusable shopping bag or reducing car journeys. That’s what I hope people will be thinking about as they move around the exhibition.

One thing people might be inspired to do is get hands-on with craft-making, and for that they can look forward to our Make it Harewood weekend in July. There will be workshops, music and food, all to show that everybody can be involved in craft and everybody can benefit in some way. It’s a wonderful recurring theme throughout the show, that working with your hands makes you feel happy. It improves your well-being mentally, physically, psychologically and Make it Harewood is a wonderful opportunity for people to have a go. So visit the website for more details on when that will be and who will be involved.

Thank you both!