On Friday 15 July, Harewood House had the pleasure of hosting the Attingham Summer School, a prestigious study course for heritage professionals and decorative arts scholars from Europe and America, dedicated to the study of British historic houses and their collections.
It was an exciting opportunity for the House team to highlight some of the key pieces in Harewood’s diverse collection and to discuss this year’s new exhibitions and displays. A programme for the day was put together to emphasise Harewood’s unique and ever-evolving history.
David Lascelles, the 8th Earl of Harewood, welcomed the group and gave an overview of Harewood’s history, including its association with the West Indian Slave trade – a background that Harewood shares with very many British institutions and one it tries to pro-actively engage with and acknowledge.
The fifty students were then split into three groups and given an in-depth tour of the State Floor by our knowledgeable House Stewards. Members of the Collections Team were on hand in a number of rooms to give a short focus on works of particular significance, such as the iconic portrait of Lady Worsley by Sir Joshua Reynolds, J.M.W Turner’s famous views of Harewood House and the landscape, as well as stunning, early photographs by Roger Fenton. It was also an opportunity to discuss Harewood’s current conservation project on the Yellow Drawing Room’s original 18th century Axminster carpet.
A picnic lunch surrounded by stunning Capability Brown views was planned but naturally thwarted by the often unreliable Yorkshire climate. Trevor Nicholson, Harewood’s Head Gardener, had to be particularly creative in his overview of Harewood’s gardens from the shelter of the Steward’s Room.
After lunch, students were treated to a number of expert lectures. Professor Ann Sumner, Harewood’s Historic Collections Advisor, gave an analysis of the restoration of the Gallery in the 1980s whilst revealing the fascinating history behind the Old Master paintings that now adorn its walls. Dame Rosalind Savill, former Director of the Wallace Collection and Sèvres expert, delivered an enthusiastic history of Harewood’s remarkable collection of Sèvres porcelain in the Dining Room.
The day was brought to a close with an In Conversation with artist and curator Diane House, 8th Countess of Harewood. The discussion revealed how the first dedicated contemporary art space in a country house, the Terrace Gallery, was formed and emphasised the unique relationship between contemporary artists and the Lascelles family, an aspect that the students found particularly interesting.
As is tradition at the end of each day on their tour, one of the students was nominated to give thanks to their hosts. On this occasion, an American 18th century historian, reflected how she often thinks about the history of sugar, when having a spoonful in her English cup of tea, and that she would always remember how illuminating Lord Harewood’s remarks on the relationship of Harewood and the sugar trade had been in this respect.
Overall, the day was a great success and we would like to thank the Attingham Summer School for the opportunity to share the treasures of Harewood House with its students.