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Year

2018

My Christmas – Charlotte Hepburn, Retail Manager

Harewood_ChristmasTableWe’re enjoying the festive moments of our colleagues at the Trust, here’s Charlotte, Retail Manager

What is your earliest Christmas memory?
My earliest Christmas memory is going round to my grandmas for Christmas dinner and the whole family sitting round the family on all different height chairs, this meant around 18-19 people (we are a big family) I remember sitting on my grandpa’s knee for the whole of Christmas day.

Do you have any specific Christmas traditions?
Growing up I had a pony and every Christmas we took him a special Christmas lunch down to the field consisting of sugar beet and beer.

Which period from history would you have liked to celebrate Christmas in?
I would have like to have celebrated Christmas in the Tudor time just to experience on of those feasts!

What’s the piece of music that gets you in the festive mood?
It has to be the Pogues, Fairytale of New York. It’s not Christmas until you have heard this song!

What’s the nicest gift that someone has offered you / you have given?
I think the best present I have ever received was Blackjack my first pony. He was from my Mum and Dad and I am still paying off the Christmas/birthday present debt!

Chippendale 300 – a conversation with artist Geraldine Pilgrim

Thomas Chippendale at Harewood, LeedsOne of the most exciting aspects of the Chippendale exhibition this year was the contemporary response of the artist Geraldine Pilgrim who considered the relationship between a finished piece of Chippendale furniture and the original material from which is was constructed, wood and the trees from which this wood came.

She used the phrase ‘Their Most Obedient Servant’ from Chippendale’s Director, as an over-arching title for her exhibition. Her two intriguing and thought-provoking pieces Root and Branch on display in the Terrace Gallery and Family Tree in the Stables Courtyard, fascinated visitors over the summer months. I caught up with Geraldine Pilgrim recently and asked her about her experience working at Harewood:

Ann: How did you came to initially be inspired by Thomas Chippendale?
Geraldine: I was inspired – when I first heard the Harewood theme to be used for the Chippendale celebration “From a Tree to a Table …”- to create imagery that linked a tree with wood, and the intricate carving and gilding of Chippendale’s craftsmanship. I’ve always believed that it’s often the case when visiting stately homes and seeing beautiful ornate and decorative furniture by Master Craftsmen that the materials from which they are made can be forgotten or not realised what the source of these masterpieces actually is – very simply a Tree. I fell in love with Thomas Chippendale – my research led me to perceive him as a man of great warmth, integrity, energy and generosity.

What do you most admire about his craftsmanship?
Geraldine: Chippendale was a Master Craftsman who genuinely loved what he did. He had an understanding of wood with a unique ability to realise the potential of this natural material. I think of him as a site – specific artist because he didn’t just design and make furniture, his designs responded to the rooms where his furniture would be placed, in the buildings where he was commissioned and – through his close collaboration with Robert Adam- the wallpaper, furnishings, carpets as well as the furniture, created total environments. His ideas although intricate and highly detailed were not just for decoration but were made to be practical. As the 7th Earl of Harewood said in 2000, ‘The great Diana and Minerva commode stood in my mother’s sitting room and I remember almost as soon as we came to live here, when I was only seven, watching my mother delve into it extracting writing paper and things of that sort. It was not opened daily and she handled it with great care but it was very much in use during the War when she stored wrapping paper and reconstituted envelopes in it’

Your piece Root and Branch seemed such a dramatic response and I know theatre has played a key role in the development of your practice. How did you approach this commission and the display?
Geraldine: As a site- specific artist I always respond in the first instance to the site itself using its history, atmosphere and memories that I feel are embedded in the walls of a building as initial inspiration. Root and Branch was a development in my work as it was very much a gallery piece- albeit a beautiful architectural gallery space- as I realised that I wanted to create a sculpture which would stand in its own right as a piece of work and could be placed anywhere. I loved the theatricality of a tree growing a piece of furniture and that a branch could appear to be almost giving birth to a Chippendale chair. Trees are a constant influence in my work – when appropriate – and the skeletal outlines of the structure of branches has always inspired me. I knew that the Gallery required a distinctive sculpture that could be placed within the four columns and wanted the simplicity of a mahogany box, Chippendale chair, a distinctive branch and a tree root would provide an artistic response as to where Chippendale’s furniture initially came from. An original Chippendale Chair was placed in the gallery, so the carved and gilded original chair could be seen through the branches central curve in Root and Branch.

The intriguing Family Tree was admired by visitors over the summer and as I gave lectures locally I met descendants of the Chippendale family. What inspired you to respond in this way to Chippendale’s story?
Geraldine: It was important to link the imagery within the Gardens to the House so that visitors to the Courtyard Café would be encouraged to enter Harewood House itself as well as visiting the Gardens. With Family Tree I wanted to create an outdoor installation that would not only be visually powerful enough to be noticeable within the stunning Stables Courtyard but would also inspire people to know more about the man himself. This commission gave me an opportunity to connect with Chippendale, his family and his craft by imagining Thomas Chippendale, inspired by his love of wood, dreaming of his own family tree.

Siting Family Tree in the centre of the Courtyard was a perfect setting as it meant that visitors would not only be able to view it by walking around the Installation but also sit with the Bed/Tree in their midst whilst drinking their teas and coffees enabling it to became a natural and accepted part of their environment. The tree -constructed from individual pieces of oak to my design- burst through the wire mattress base of the bespoke 4 poster bed and embedded in the tree trunk, branches and within the mattress wire base were small engraved brass plaques with all the names of his known family therefore creating a 3 dimensional Chippendale family tree. It was fascinating in my research to discover that he not only had two wives and so many children but that by looking at the names and dates on the plaques, a picture of a real man not just a fabled Master Craftsman began to emerge, with the losses, heartbreaks and history that every family has contained within the engravings.

Chippendale 300 celebrations at Harewood, Leeds

What for you was the highlight of your work at Harewood?
Geraldine: The moment when I walked alone to view both installations when they were finally in place and those initial ideas and scribbles from months before became a reality. Root and Branch in particular was challenging to install. My team carefully manoeuvred the sculpture through the doorways of the House, for as the chair was already positioned in the branch, it could not be separated and its angle meant the width of the sculpture caused major difficulties but my team were so skillful it all went seamlessly.

Watching the tree of Family Tree being hoisted by crane up and over the beautifully constructed bed so it would be placed accurately onto the waiting plate that would hold it safely in position; was an amazing sight and always in this type of work, the skills and patience of my creative team are always a highlight as I could never achieve my ideas without them.

The commissioning process is always fascinating. Can you tell us something about how you worked with the team at Harewood?
Geraldine: The support from the team at Harewood was amazing. It felt like a true collaboration as they always made sure that I felt that the commission was very much part of the fabric of the House and Gardens and that it was an integral part of the Chippendale celebrations. It was obvious to me at the outset that the team at Harewood had such respect for Chippendale and I valued so much all the assistance in making sure I had enough support and information from Harewood for my research.

You can read more on the Chippendale 300 blog.

With special thanks to Christie’s for their sponsorship of the Chippendale 300 blog series.

Thomas Chippendale’s centenary – a final reflection on 2018

The Chippendale tercentenary this year has successfully marked the birth of this famous influential Yorkshire cabinet maker and Harewood House Trust has played a key role in the celebrations. This series of blog posts has charted the success of the year and this is the final post and reflection as commemorations draw to a close.

Thomas Chippendale’s furniture was always original and distinctive yet practical, and his commissions often involved far more than simply supplying furniture – his firm provided upholstery, wall paper, draperies and soft furnishings, as the outstanding Harewood commission demonstrated.

His birth in Otley 300 years ago has been celebrated with a series of events, publications and quality exhibitions throughout the year, across the country, collectively known as Chippendale 300. A legacy of the year-long programme is that the different organisations have all undoubtedly enjoyed working together and plan to continue to do so. The Chippendale Society and Furniture History Society have played an important role in co-ordinating many of the activities, most especially the joint symposium in April in Leeds. Furniture History, the journal of the Furniture History Society, an extensively illustrated scholarly publication, has now been published for 2018. Volume LIV is entirely devoted to Chippendale with two articles cover Harewood’s important commission – one by Adam Bowett entitled Furniture for the Circular Dressing Room at Harewood House and the other by myself, The Chippendale Firm at Harewood: Early Visitors’ Experiences, both revealing new research and encouraging new approaches to the study of his most important lavish commission here at Harewood.

Thomas Chippendale may have been born in a small market town, but he found fame in London, setting up his famous workshop in St Martin’s Lane in 1753, where he attracted wealthy elite patrons who included aristocrats, politicians, merchants, actors and royalty. Some patrons such as Harewood’s Edwin Lascelles employed the Chippendale firm exclusively. Due to the success of his book of designs, the revolutionary Director, first published in 1754 with 160 engraved plates, his work has been copied, emulated, and collected across Europe and America – Catherine the Great owned a copy and an edition came out in French. His fame spread quickly and his name and brand resonate today across the world.

The tercentenary year saw Harewood House Trust acquire a very special second edition of the Director, which had belonged to the 1st Earl of Harewood. This exciting new acquisition was returned to England from America and displayed. A previous blog post on 24 August, was dedicated to the Director and the Trust’s important acquisition. There has always been great interest in the Director internationally and at present there is an excellent, highly informative exhibition, Chippendale’s Director: The Designs and Legacy of a Furniture Maker at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York until 27 January 2019, including a selection of more than 200 original Chippendale drawings drawn from their collection.

The Chippendale Director

The Gentleman and Cabinetmaker’s Director, 1755 Harewood House Trust

Chippendale has been described as the Shakespeare of furniture-making and the tercentenary programme of exhibitions and events has highlighted his life and work broadly and innovatively, raising his profile to new heights. Nowhere have the celebrations been greater than here in Yorkshire, the county of his birth, where the bunting came out in Otley throughout June to honour his Baptism Day. The 5 June was celebrated with free admission to Harewood for Otley residents and a special tour, with the annual Chippendale Society Dinner held that warm summer evening at Otley Golf Club.

The programme of celebrations was launched in early February 2018 when Tristram Hunt, Director of the V&A, opened the impressive exhibition Thomas Chippendale: A Celebration of Craftsmanship and Design at Leeds City Museum. This explored the life, work and legacy of the furniture maker, with impressive loans of furniture and original drawings. Harewood House Trust lent generously to the exhibition, including the famous ornate wine cooler c1771, which is part of the Dining Room sideboard suite. There were key loans from Temple Newsam House, Nostell Priory, National Trust, the V&A and Fairfax House, York and from numerous private collections, as well as fine examples from The Chippendale Society’s own extensive collection. The key themes were Style, Customers and Legacy, the latter being a fascinating section which included not only the influence of the Director in spreading Chippendale’s style but also how his reputation has been seen in 20th century popular culture, including an explanation about how The Chippendales dance troupe acquired their name in 1979 meeting in the Destiny II nightclub in Los Angeles, naming themselves after the club’s Chippendale-style furniture. The exhibition was seen by 35,000 visitors and curated jointly by Adam Bowett and James Lomax of The Chippendale Society. A full lavish accompanying publication was launched in April.

Chippendale wine cooler at Harewood House near Harrogate

Ornate wine cooler designed for Harewood by Thomas Chippendale

On 22 March, Harewood House Trust opened our long-planned exhibition Thomas Chippendale: Designer, Maker, Decorator exploring Chippendale’s craftsmanship, talent as a designer and furniture maker, as well as his wider role as decorator and the response of early visitors to the interiors. One of the highlights of the exhibition was a new mirrored display of the famous Diana and Minerva Commode, the subject of the first blog post on 25 April. It is the finest of a distinguished group of marquetry furniture that was supplied to Edwin Lascelles in the 1770s. The main feature is the central concave recess, superbly executed enabling a lady to sit in front of is and use the drawers. There was an emphasis in this display on the craftsmanship of the Chippendale firm and the materials used to construct this iconic piece of furniture, from the main mahogany carcass to the thin veneer ground of golden satinwood which has been so carefully hand-cut and inlaid with dyed exotic tropical hardwoods such as rosewood and tulip wood. There was a great response from visitors to this particular display which enabled audiences to look in much more detail at the decorative motifs of swags of husks, repeated garlands of flowering acanthus leaves and radiating fans.

The exhibition sought to reflect how an overall commission of this size and complexity was realised and what was involved from a practical point of view. Chippendale’s surviving bills were displayed including the House Steward Samuel Popelwell’s detailed record in his Day Book from 1769 – 1776, which charts the evolving commission and the practicalities of the wider decorator role. The Day Book describes cabinet maker Samuel James arriving from London in October 1769 and remaining until just before Christmas, busying himself ‘Comeing and going to Leeds prepareing for the Work’, ‘Unpacking and Fixing Furniture’, hanging wallpaper and mirrors, for instance on 2 December spending 10 hours ‘At the Glasses in the Dineing Room’.

He was replaced in March 1770 by the ‘upholder’ William Reid, who made many visits to Harewood from 1771 (the year the Lascelles family moved into their new home) to 1776 spending 856 days altogether working here. For the majority of the time Reid was kept busy, unpacking cases, ‘Fixing Furniture’ which included upholstery and ‘Stuffing the Chaires for the Coffe & Billiard room’, laying carpets, hanging wallpaper, curtains and blinds and applying gold wall borders. It was he who was responsible for making up the State Bed, draping the dome in damask working on the State Bedchamber during the winter of 1773 – 4. He also made protective covers for furniture and the carpets and was sometimes, assisted by two tailors with the upholstery and by John Walker the local Harewood joiner. Our visitors also showed great interest in the fact that the house was opened to the public by appointment and on specified days and the quotes from early visitors ranged from Rev John Wesley, founder of Methodism to the abolitionist William Wilberforce and the pastel painter John Russell, all of whom recorded their initial responses to the lavish Chippendale interiors. Ironically some of the greatest pieces of furniture might well have been protected by the serge covers which the Chippendale firm provided, so none mention the great Diana and Minerva commode, which so fascinates audiences today.

The feedback reflected how engaged visitors became in the displays and enjoyed this behind the scene glimpse of how the interiors were originally created and the early visitors comments on them. They were guided around the State Floor and Below Stairs by a handy guide From Tree to Table, which also took them beyond into the grounds to explore the Tree Trail. This continued the trend over the last few years at Harewood of thematically curating the house and landscape together, which was first developed for the Capability Brown celebrations. Not only did Harewood celebrate Chippendale on his Baptism Day on 5 June but also again on 1 August, Yorkshire Day, with a lecture on his Harewood commission.

An illustration from the Chippendale Director

Our colleagues from the National Trust at Nostell Priory visited Harewood House in the run up to the centenary programme and we shared our ideas and thoughts on how we planned to celebrate his legacy, both agreeing the importance of contemporary legacy. Their Chippendale, the Man and the Brand opened at Nostell in May, followed in July by their collaboration with Hepworth Wakefield and the artist/designer Giles Round which explored Chippendale’s legacy and the importance of the domestic setting, examining how artists have influenced interior design. Installations created by Round were seen at both locations examining how homes have become important staging grounds for dialogues between art and design.

Meanwhile, further afield at Paxton House in the Scottish Borders another major exhibition opened – The Paxton Style: Thomas Chippendale’s Scottish Achievement, curated by David Jones and Fiona Salveson Murrell, which explored the taste of two Scottish patrons Patrick Home and Ninian Home for their homes Wedderburn Castle and Paxton House and showcased new research. The furniture at Paxton has been described as ‘an exercise in under-stated well-tempered neo-classicism but quietly experimental. The exhibition ran until the end of August and examined the influences on the Chippendale firm and the legacy in Scotland. It included some key loans from Arniston House, Blair Castle, Dumfries House, National Museums of Scotland and the V&A, benefitting from the Weston Loan Scheme for funding. I much enjoyed a tour of the exhibition with Fiona in July, especially taking in some of the drawings from the V&A. If you missed the exhibition, there is an informative catalogue available for sale from Paxton directly. At the end of September a symposium was planned at Paxton, jointly organised, to compare the commissions at Harewood and at Paxton – ‘Neat and Plain’ vs ‘Sumptuous and Ornate’ and we had a key speakers lined up to deliver some fascinating papers but unfortunately, due to the illness of two of the speakers, and rally major train issues planned for that Saturday 29 September, we regrettably had to cancel the event, as those who had tickets would simply not have been able to reach Paxton that day and return. I’d hoped to write up this event as my final blog post but instead, I’ve now had the opportunity to look back over the entire year and reflect on all that has been achieved. It has been a truly memorable year for Chippendale enthusiasts and the general public alike who have warmed to his story and embraced his legacy.

Chippendale 300

Beckie Burton, Harewood House, with Ann Sumner

It is especially good to see the Chippendale project reflected as we approach the festive season in the Christmas curation of Harewood, with the State Rooms dressed by Creative Director Simon Costin this year. Visitors can enter a Christmas dreamscape that extends from the House into the surrounding grounds. In two rooms Chippendale themes are particularly reflected – in the Yellow Drawing Room which is a riot of sunflowers referencing the sunflower motif on the suite of Chippendale furniture there and in the Gallery a large 4.5 m tall Pan created in willow by Dragon Willow is inspired by the god of nature and companion to the nymphs. The figure of Pan is often found as a motif on Chippendale furniture in the house and this willow Pan wends its way through the gallery scattering presents as he goes.

As this is my final blog post on Chippendale, I would like to thank my colleagues in the Harewood Collections and wider teams.  I am especially grateful to Christie’s for their support of this blog and the Chippendale Society, specifically Adam Bowett and James Lomax, who have given so much to support to us all but have been particularly helpful to me in thinking through new ideas about the reception of Chippendale’s commission at Harewood.

It has been an exciting year, taking me to lecture across the country and perhaps most memorably at Dumfries House and here at Harewood on Yorkshire Day, both on very hot days and of course contributing my paper to the symposium day in Leeds. It’s been a privilege to serve on the Chippendale 300 Steering Group, meeting regularly with colleagues and I am sure we will get back together to share experiences of this remarkable year. I hope you have enjoyed this tercentenary journey with updates on the blog about key works in Harewood’s collection, new research, events and interviews with key scholars and that with Geraldine here today, hearing how a contemporary artist has responded to this master craftsman, his story and his work.

Thank you for taking the time to read these blogs and share knowledge of and interest in Chippendale.

With special thanks to Christie’s for their sponsorship of the Chippendale 300 blog series.

My Christmas – Nick Dowling, Bird Garden Manager

NickBirdGardenBlog1.What is your earliest Christmas memory?

My earliest Christmas memory was looking at the presents under the tree and wondering which one was mine. My cousin (who could read) told me that a red lumpy oblong shaped one had my name on it and from then until Christmas Day I would pick it up and try to guess what it was. It felt like months until I was actually allowed to open it! I can remember the scent of the wrapping paper, but I can’t actually remember what the present actually was!

Another early memory was helping my Granddad put real candles onto the real Christmas tree and then lighting them. All the candles were top heavy and wonky in their holders- even then I remembered thinking what a fire hazard it was.

2. Do you have any specific Christmas traditions?

The tree goes up on 1st of December and that’s when I get the Christmas CD out for the drive to work. We aim to watch Elf, Home Alone 1 & 2, Love Actually and TV Christmas specials such as Gavin & Stacey and the Office. We also do Elf on the Shelf for our little boy and try to create more elaborate situations as Christmas Eve gets closer. On Christmas Day we normally go to see family for lunch.

During my career I have worked Christmas Day a lot of the time, as of course the birds will still be relying on us for their Christmas dinner of seeds, fruit, vegetables, mealworms, nuts, fish, meat and pellets among other things. It’s always a nice atmosphere at work as we have lots of Christmas goodies in our mess room and we have the run of Harewood to ourselves, apart from the security team of course!

3. Which period from history would you have liked to celebrate Christmas in?

I would have liked to celebrate Christmas in the Dickensian period, although it probably wouldn’t have been as fun as it looked on The Muppets!
I also would have liked to have been a bit older in the 1980’s so I could remember it better- it was a great era for Christmas songs and the presents always seemed cooler.

4. What’s the piece of music that gets you in the festive mood?

Usually its ‘Don’t Let The Bells End’ by The Darkness, although when we were frantically cleaning the Bird Garden kitchen at 7pm recently, prior to an upcoming Zoo licensing inspection, Shakin’ Stevens came on the radio which was the first Christmas song I’d heard this year and that gave me a bit of a boost as I mopped the floor.

5. What’s the nicest gift that someone has offered you / you have given?

The nicest gift I have given was a marriage proposal and the nicest gift I have received was being accepted….. or a book on pheasants, partridges and grouse!

Follow @HarewoodHouse on social media to keep up to date on news and behind the scenes…

Christmas TV Programme Filmed at Harewood

MaryBerryShowtimeChristmas just got an extra sparkle as we reveal ‘Mary Berry’s Country House at Christmas’ was filmed here. The one-hour programme, which will air on BBC Two in December, is one of the highlights of the BBC’s Christmas season.

It features stories from across Harewood, including tales from the House and gardens and the focus of this year’s 1929 Christmas Eve story. The traditions from past and present are woven together with scenes of Mary cooking in the copper-pan adorned Below Stairs kitchen, with recipes including traditional Twelfth Cake and Yorkshire Pie.

The crew filmed for two weeks at the beginning of November when Harewood was closed to the public. Stories expected to be featured across the episode range from the Walled Garden to the Private Apartments and incorporate some of the talented and generous Harewood volunteers spending time with Mary whilst they make wreaths for the House and decorate gingerbread that will play a role in the setting for visitors.

David Lascelles, Earl of Harewood and Chair of the Board of Trustees, also took Mary on a wider tour of the Harewood Estate, bringing the family’s history to life.

Jane Marriott, Harewood House Trust Director, said;
“We had two wonderful weeks with Mary Berry and the crew, whilst they explored the many stories at Harewood. Christmas in the 1920s, is one of these unique stories, which we have brought to life, in an enchanting and magical way, created especially for us by Simon Costin. Continuing our ambition to work with the best Artistic Directors in this country, we are delighted to now have the opportunity to broadcast this nationwide and to share the traditions of Christmas at Harewood, through the eyes of two little boys in the 1920s, celebrated in Mary Berry’s programme.”

Follow Harewood on social media to keep up to date with the latest stories and transmission date for the programme.