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Reframing Reynolds

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Saturday 18 March – Monday 28 August 2023
11am – 4pm

In the late eighteenth century, the celebrated artist Sir Joshua Reynolds painted many portraits of the Lascelles family. They were a family on the rise, solidifying their status by building Harewood House with profits from the trades in sugar and enslaved people.

Now, marking 300 years since Reynolds’ birth, Harewood is re-examining six of these remarkable portraits to explore the artist’s innovative style and role in constructing power and identity in the age of Empire.

Discover exceptional and iconic works including Lady WorsleyMrs Hale as Euphrosyne and Edwin Lascelles, the builder of Harewood. With the paintings re-displayed to disrupt the centuries-old narrative, explore and question the visual stories Reynolds told within his extraordinary portraits.

The exhibition also includes a specially designed family guide, to help younger visitors learn about Reynolds and inspire them to think positively about portraiture and identity in the modern world.



This exhibition contains content relating to the Transatlantic trade of enslaved African people. It features portraits of individuals who owned and exploited enslaved people. If you would prefer to avoid this content, please speak to a member of staff during your visit.

Reynolds and the Lascelles family
Reynolds’ relationship with the Lascelles family began in the early 1760s and spanned a period of over 20 years. It was a time that coincided with both Reynolds’ most successful years as an artist, and the Lascelles family’s rise in social prominence. Edwin Lascelles, the wealthy sugar merchant and slave trader who built Harewood House, began and completed work on his new home during this period, having brought together some of the best-known architects, designers and craftspeople of his day. Reynolds was part of that vision and was integral in forming the family’s aspirational self-image.

Whilst artists had always sought to flatter their sitters, Reynolds’ innovative style of portraiture developed a dual purpose – to simultaneously idealise and aggrandise his clients, but also capture and convey their unique character. His work was highly staged and often deliberately entertaining, developing his ‘Grand Style’ – an aesthetic language which promoted dignity through association with the Old Masters and the Classical world. 

Reynolds’ new approach was timely. Working at the height of the British Empire, new sources of wealth created an aspiring class, which included families such as the Lascelles, who looked to project an identity and self-image that legitimised their new-found wealth, status and power.   

Today, Harewood has 6 portraits by Joshua Reynolds in its collection (although more portraits of the family by Reynolds were painted). Not all of the sitters possess the surname ‘Lascelles’, but they are all related to Edwin Lascelles, or his cousin and heir, Edward, through marriage. 

Featured works in the exhibition include the celebrated full-length portraits of Lady Worsley and her sister, Lady Harrington, as well as Reynolds’ exceptional full-length portrait of Mrs Hale, depicted as the goddess Euphrosyne, in the Music Room. 

Other works include the full-length portrait of Edwin Lascelles, builder of Harewood House, which will be re-displayed and re-interpreted to better contextualise the portrait and sitter. Additionally the three-quarter length portraits of Edward Lascelles, later 1st Earl of Harewood, and his wife Anne, are also featured. 

Entry to Reframing Reynolds is included as part of your day ticket.