Edward Lascelles (1764–1814) was the eldest son of the 1st Earl of Harewood (1740–1820), the owner of the imposing Harewood House in Yorkshire and extensive estates there and in the West Indies, which brought in ‘at least £50,000 a year’ (Farington, Diary, 20 June 1795). Lascelles used his personal allowance (he predeceased his father) to build up a significant collection of contemporary art, which is documented in his account books and in the inventory of his principal residence, Harewood House, Hanover Square in London, made after his death in 1814 (Hill, 1984a, p.33). The latter lists landscapes commissioned or bought from an impressive array of artists, including Paul Sandby (c.1730–1809), John Varley (1778–1842), John Sell Cotman (1782–1842), Peter De Wint (1784–1849), Augustus Wall Callcott (1779–1844) and, most notably, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), who with twelve items was only exceeded by Girtin himself, who was represented by nineteen watercolours and drawings. Turner had been the first to be invited to the family’s estate in Yorkshire to paint views of the house (see TG1547 figure 1), but Girtin was soon to find greater favour. Moreover, as the diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821) noted, ‘Lascelles as well as Lady Sutherland [Elizabeth Leveson-Gower (1765–1839)] are disposed to set up Girtin against Turner – who they say effects his purpose by industry – the former more genius – Turner finishes too much’ (Farington, Diary, 9 February 1799). The two artists both painted the view of Harewood House from the South East on similar generous scales, in 1798 and 1801 respectively (see TG1548 figure 1), which enables an understanding of what it was that Lascelles appreciated in Girtin’s distinctive approach.
Payments to Girtin totalling over £210 included an unspecified sum for ‘Lessons’, but the bulk were for works commissioned directly from the artist beginning, it seems, with two large Welsh views that stemmed from Girtin’s 1798 tour, A Mountain View, near Beddgelert (TG1322) and The Ogwen Falls (TG1330), both of which made a prominent showing at the Royal Academy in 1799 (Hill, 1995, p.29). Although David Hill has suggested that Girtin may have visited Harewood as early as 1796, the only stay that is firmly documented is one in 1800, though a trip in 1799 is highly likely, as in that year Girtin is known to have gathered material for commissions of local views for Lascelles, including Harewood Bridge (TG1551) (Hill, 1999, p.21). The outstanding outcome of the later visit was a commission for four monumental views of Harewood House and park, as well as locations associated with the family, including A Distant View of Knaresborough, from the South East (TG1669) and Plumpton Rocks, near Knaresborough (TG1553). Girtin received eighty guineas for the close-framed works, though this was not before he was ordered to make ‘alterations in the Drawings of this place’ (Roget, 1891, p.120). Lascelles’ support for Girtin, undoubtedly the most extensive he received as a mature artist, included the purchase of no fewer than three proof sets of the Picturesque Views in Paris prints. After Lascelles’ death in 1814, his watercolours by Girtin were retained by the family; however, said to have been prompted by their poor condition after fifty years of display, many of them were sold at auction in 1858, by which time all but the views of Harewood had lost their original titles (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 May 1858). In the twentieth century the Lascelles family bought back a number of the watercolours disposed of in 1858, and Harewood today is the only place closely associated with the artist where his work can still be studied en masse.
Harewood House, from the South West
Harewood House, from the South East
1798 - 1799
A Mountain View, near Beddgelert
1798 - 1799
The Ogwen Falls
1800 - 1801
A Distant View of Knaresborough, from the South East
1800 - 1801
Plumpton Rocks, near Knaresborough