Harewood House Colours Uncovered – 22 March to 9 June – Updated

A Harewood House Trust presentation – the story of colours found in the collections at Harewood House, from the Renaissance to the present day.


Colours Uncovered is a new exhibition tracing the history and science of colour, through selected objects and artworks from the Harewood House collection. The exhibition examines what colour can tell us about the history of civilisation, scientific discovery and society from the 1500s to today. Chief Curator and Artistic Director Darren Pih connects the vibrant pigments in a Renaissance Vivarini painting, the blush pink in Sèvres porcelain, and the muted natural pigments in work by contemporary artist Max Lamb in a celebration of Harewood’s collection and gardens. 

Chinese Celadon vases. Photograph by Drew Forsyth

Darren Pih joined the Trust from Tate Liverpool in 2022. Throughout the house and gardens, specific colours will be spotlighted in artworks and objects within the collection, revealing their hidden colour stories and histories

You may already know that Harewood House is in Leeds, Yorkshire and is one of the Treasure Houses of England. The House was built in the 18th century and is renowned for its collection of paintings, furniture, ceramics, and gardens. The house is managed by independent charity Harewood House Trust.

The exhibition, room by room, explores artists using colour theory, the science of extraction of pigments from nature, how colour affects wellbeing and colour trends through history. 

Colours Uncovered highlights include:

The ultramarine blue in the 16th century painting ‘Madonna and Child with St John and St Jerome’, attributed to Venetian artists Alvise Vivarini and Marco Basaiti:

Photograph by Anna Sanden

The pink in the Sèvres porcelain collection from the 1700s. Pieces in the porcelain collection will also be planted with bulbs from the gardens:

Sevres porcelain vase with rose ground 1757/58. Harewood House Trust. Photograph by Glen Segal.

Muted colours from the ivy berries, eucalyptus and alder harvested from the estate’s grounds in a hand-dyed 24 metre square rug by Max Lamb, a contemporary work in the Harewood House collection:

The-Yellow-Drawing-Room-at-Harewood-House-featuring-the-Harewood-Rugs-by-Max-Lamb-2019_commissioned-for-the-exhibition-Useful_Beautiful_-Why-Craft-Matters_Photograh by Jonty-Wild
Memory Garden. Photograph by Drew Forsyth

‘Memory Garden’ 2023, a large-scale textile installation by Cecilia Charlton, inspired by flowers found in a British garden, on loan and shown for the first time outside London.    

Colours Uncovered is co-created with the Harewood House Collections team, who share their extensive research into the creation and manufacture of the featured artworks and objects. Each exhibition is accompanied by newly commissioned interpretation texts from a diverse range of colour experts. These include horticulturalists, colour psychologists, artists and fashion designers, offering fresh perspectives into the colours found in the Harewood collection.

Curator and archivist Rebecca Burton with a sample of Mauvine. Photograph by Drew Forsyth

There is a display of colour theory including colour wheels and historic pigments from the rarely seen collection of the Bradford-based Society of Dyers and Colourists Textile Collection, and a colour spectrum work by artist James Hugonin. The exhibition design is by Manchester-based studio Instruct and includes papers and cards from specialist paper maker GF Smith, based in Hull.

Outside the house and into the one hundred acres of gardens, the colour spectrum in nature can be seen in the vast variety of plants from around the world, especially the spring planting in the parterre of the Terrace and the Walled Garden.  

The Terrace at Harewood House. Photograph: Visit England and Thomas Heaton

Darren Pih, Chief Curator and Artistic Director of Harewood House Trust: “In Colours Uncovered, we take a deep dive into the stunning colours found in our historic and contemporary collections at Harewood House. We’ve invited designers, horticulturalists and colour psychologists to share fresh perspectives on what a colour can tell us. The exhibition explores how colours are derived from environmental processes and the extraction of pigments from nature. It also contemplates the significance of colours in our lives far beyond aesthetic and cultural impressions, examining how they can affect our moods and carry social and emotional meanings. We’re delighted to be unveiling this multi-layered exhibition to launch our 2024 programme.”

18th century Sevres porcelain with hyacinth. Photograph by Drew Forsyth

Colours Uncovered will be accompanied by a series of events and activities across Harewood, for all ages and abilities. 

Colours Uncovered is showing at Harewood House, Yorkshire from 22 March – 9 June 2024. Free with admission to Harewood House. For more information visit www.harewood.org

Credit: Colours Uncovered is an exhibition in the house and gardens of Harewood House in Yorkshire. It was curated by Darren Pih, Chief Curator & Artistic Director, of Harewood House Trust. 

Treasure Houses of England https://treasurehouses.co.uk/

Venue: Harewood House, Harewood, Leeds LS17 9LG Visiting information LINK

Contact: 0113 218 1000, [email protected]

Dates: 22 March to 9 June 2024

Opening times: From 10am daily.  Check the website for details.

Admission: £18 adults, £10 children. Concessions available. £2 Tickets are available for those in receipt of universal credit, pension credit and refugee status (check details for eligibility). Free for Harewood members and under 4s

Website Linkwww.harewood.org 

Interpretation Contributors include Dr Vien Cheung, Sadie Clayton, Chris Day, Sigrid Holmwood, Allyson McDermott, Trevor Nicholson, Dame Rosalind Savill, Claire Wilcox and Professor Nigel Wood.

With thanks to GF Smith for their support with Colours Uncovered.

Main image: Rhododendrum at the Lakeside Path, Harewood House. Photograph by Simon Warner.

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