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Collections and Archive

Castle Howard is home to works of art of international significance, displayed within the state rooms, enhanced by these grand settings. 

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The core of the picture collection was gathered by three generations in less than a century. The 3rd , 4 th and 5th Earls each purchased widely and wisely as they toured Europe, but of all the Continental influences, the strongest was that of Italy.

The 3rd Earl began to collect pictures, tapestries and sculpture during the early years of the 18th century, acquired to furnish his newly built house.

Although the 4th Earl was a passionate collector of antique sculpture, his love of Italy was reflected in his purchase of paintings by Pannini, Zuccarelli and, most importantly Canaletto.

The 5th Earl followed in these collecting footsteps, and purchased Italian Old Masters extensively, including paintings by Bassano, Bedoli, Bellini, Carracci, Domenichino, Gentileschi and Titian. He patronised English artists too: Sir Joshua Reynolds, Johann Zoffany, and Thomas Gainsborough. In 1805 he published the first printed catalogue of the collection at Castle Howard, listing 111 paintings. By the fourth edition in 1845 this had grown to 274.

The final chapter in the history of the collection begins with the 9th Earl and Countess, who commissioned William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Walter Crane, to decorate their homes. As a painter himself, the 9th Earl moved in Pre-Raphaelite circles, and knew many eminent British artists of the day, including Frederic, Lord Leighton, and G.F. Watts.

As with many collections, artworks have been bought and sold across the years, but Castle Howard’s collections retain outstanding works, displayed in the splendour of the state rooms.

The Curatorial department is responsible for the management and safeguarding of the collections and archives at Castle Howard, and work closely with galleries around the world to loan out items, as well as borrow for specific exhibitions.

The Castle Howard archive contains vast range of material including books, correspondence, diaries, papers, bills and notebooks, which document the life and times of Castle Howard and its inhabitants over the centuries. It is a rich resource which underpins the curatorial research and exhibitions programme, and provides frequently extraordinary insights behind the scenes of Castle Howard.

The curatorial team are responsible for the various exhibitions held within the house, including the award winning Duty Calls, which shares stories from Castle Howard in times of war. This is one of a series of events and displays put together by the Yorkshire Country House Partnership to commemorate the centenary of WWI.

Our curatorial department are also involved with research projects and inform others about the history of the house and estate through a series of tours, lectures, exhibitions and publications. Group lectures can be arranged to suit specific interests but may cover: 'The building of Castle Howard', 'The Pre-Raphaelites' 'The Women of Castle Howard', 'The Landscape'. Contact our groups team via [email protected] for more information.

The archive is a private collection belonging to the Howard family, all enquiries relating to the archive should be submitted to the curatorial department. To contact them email [email protected]