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Howard Family Holidays: Pack up your bags, brushes, and family
By Curator Blogger // Thu 31st August 2023
curator, grand tour, 9th earl
Across the month of August, when many of you may be on your own holidays, we are exploring some of the travels enjoyed by previous generations of the Howard family. This week it is the turn of George and Rosalind Howard, 9th Earl and Countess of Carlisle.
The Travels of the 9th Earl and Countess
As a talented amateur artist, Howard, who became 9th Earl of Carlisle in 1889, would travel repeatedly to Italy, and further afield to Egypt, India, Africa, and the West Indies, but he also painted English scenery. When the young couple posed for a portrait photograph shortly after marriage, typically George sat holding a sketchbook, he was a compulsive artist, a pencil or paintbrush never far from his hand. [Fig. 1 George and Rosalind Howard].
Figure 2: Lemon Trees
Whereas previous generations of the family left records of their travels in either their collections, such as the 4th and 5th Earls, or in detailed travel accounts such as Lady Cawdor and the 7th Earl, it is the 9th Earl’s painting and drawings that record his many travels.

Their first trip as a married couple in 1865 nearly ended in disaster as Rosalind recorded in her diary: By mistake George goes to Charing Cross and I go Victoria. Who hasn’t made that error? Some years later Rosalind also suffered her share of seasickness during a terrible voyage to Antwerp, even though she was pregnant she chose to sleep part of the night on the deck in the fresh air in spite of the damp. Once in Italy the family would take a villa where the Earl would devote his time to sketching and painting either in oil or watercolour. On their first visit in 1865-66 the couple took their young first-born daughter Mary with them, and compiled an illustrated journal. Whilst steeped in the culture and history of Italy the Earl differed from his forebears in that he travelled less as a ‘Grand Tourist’, and more as an artist in search of Mediterranean light and landscape. On this first visit he met the Italian painter Giovanni Costa with whom he was to form a close friendship. Costa tutored the Earl, and the two men went on to find the Etruscan School of painters, specialising in Italian landscapes. In 1875 Rosalind recorded in her diary, George has begun today a drawing in the lemon garden at the foot of the Bianchini garden. It will be a very beautiful picture, and he says he is going to finish it up very highly. The finished watercolour, in the collection at Castle Howard, depicts two girls one of whom is hanging washing on a line; this was the family servant Angiolina.
Figure 3: Caracalla
The Earl liked to include figures in his landscapes, and a decade later whilst in Rome he painted the Baths of Caracalla with a view of the Roman campagna beyond; again there are two figures this time lying in the foreground. The Baths of Caracalla would have been familiar to the Earl from the two large depictions of them by Paolo Panini, which had hung at Castle Howard since the 1740s, when they had been commissioned by the 4th Earl.
Figure 4: Holiday mishaps
This link is a reminder of how objects, especially images (paintings, prints, and later postcards or photographs) can prompt a sense of mental travel. Thus the Earl’s grand-daughter, the late Christian Howard (d.1999), recorded how when she first visited Italy as a young girl in the 1920s she felt the landscape was very familiar, and realised this was because she had been brought up at Castle Howard surrounded by the 9th Earl’s Italian paintings.

In the 1880s the Earl travelled to Egypt, and a decade later to India where he executed a number of large oils, and in 1902 he visited South Africa. The journeys were not just about seeking inspiration, he clearly relished the experience of travel, especially by sea, writing at one point, There is no repose possible in life which can in any way approach that of a voyage. Travelling however was not always stress free, as the Earl’s sketchbooks reveal. Numerous quick pen-and-ink drawings depict a multitude of everyday incidents among the family: enjoying a picnic, dropping a water bottle, fighting with bulging luggage, and the chaos of a crowded station in Paris.
Figure 5: Holiday mishaps
Figure 6: Cornish Rockpool
But the family holidayed England too, with the Earl painting some of his favourite Cumbrian landscapes near and around Naworth Castle; and in Cornwall one year he recorded another comical moment when Rosalind came to grief in a rock pool.
Figure 7: View of Italy

In 1905 Rosalind had her first experience of travelling by motor car. Initially she was terrified, my cowardice was disgraceful, I set my teeth & my poor heart rattled with terror as we volleyed down the steep hills & round the sharp corners, seemingly rushing headlong to eternal destruction & with the feeling that the car must inevitably turn head over heels. I had stipulated that Dr Gibson should go in the car to mend the bits if we were hurled out. However at the end of the day she was a convert, declaring, We must have our own motor with a safe engineer chauffeur, it is good.

Travel is about seeing new places, learning new things, and absorbing different cultures all of which are carried back on the return journey either as souvenirs collected, pictures painted, or memories captured. Travel does broaden the mind as well as expanding one’s horizons, as the Earl’s many and varied pictures reveal. Castle Howard is righty famous as a ‘Grand Tour’ house displaying priceless works of art collected by generations of the family on their travels to Italy. However one delightful drawing by the 9th Earl turns this whole concept on its head. He drew a birds-eye view of Italy, and titled it A View of Italy showing the Principal Objects of Interest and Value.

Marked in are the major cities as well as a succession of objects the family managed to leave behind: a pair of binoculars, a jacket, a cap, a Baedeker guidebook and, seemingly, a child in Genoa. Here is proof that the fruits of travel are always two-way, what you bring back, and the little bit of yourself that you leave behind.