The proactive collecting practices of Henry Viscount Lascelles (later 6th Earl of Harewood), of Old Masters during and after WW1 is an extraordinary episode in the history of collecting in Britain.
The 6th Earl's acquisitions are significant in a number of ways. In the first instance, he was acquiring art at a time when many country-house owners were disposing of individual masterpieces or their entire art collections; the extensive run of purchases for Chesterfield House, London, and subsequently for Harewood House, Yorkshire, of important works by early Italian masters such as Bellini and Cima as well as later painters including Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and El Greco illustrates the breadth and depth of the 6th Earl's collecting activities.
While some scholarly attention has been paid to the patterns of disposal of Old Master paintings from aristocratic collections, a process that started with the high profile sales from Hamilton Palace in 1882, and was reinforced in the aftermath of the Great War when many country houses and their London town-house equivalents were sold or demolished, little scholarly attention has been paid to the acquisition of Old Masters in British private collections during the first half of the 20th century.
The 6th Earl's collecting activities were highly distinctive and challenge the conventional understanding that the traffic in 'Old Master' paintings was exclusively one-way, from Britain to the USA, in the period.
The research project will complement the work being undertaken on the development of national and regional museum collections in the period 1880s-1950s and offers the opportunity to reconsider the British market for Old Master paintings against the broader landscape of the 'heritage debate' and the increasing dominance of the notion of cultural heritage exemplified by newly-established instruments such as the NACF and Export Review Committee.