Summer events

Noble Prospects: Capability Brown and the Yorkshire Landscape

25 June to 11 September 2016

The great landscape gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716-1783) changed the face of eighteenth century English parkland, creating a magical world of woods, water and swathes of green that lives on until this day in Yorkshire. This Mercer Art Gallery exhibition is the first ever dedicated to the Yorkshire landscapes of this legendary designer to mark the 300th anniversary of his birth, devised in partnership with the Yorkshire Gardens Trust.

Capability Brown is the creator of some of Yorkshire’s most admired landscapes, which include Burton Constable, Harewood, Roche Abbey, Scampston, Sledmere and Temple Newsam. This unique exhibition brings together an intriguing collection of artworks, which reveal more about the designer and his designs. Drawn largely from Yorkshire collections the show features portraits of Capability Brown and his Yorkshire clients, original plans, drawings and documents by Brown, paintings of his creations as well as works of art that inspired his landscapes.

Capability Brown was the leading landscape designer of the second-half of the eighteenth century and there are thought to be 20 sites in Yorkshire associated with him. He rejected the very formal geometric French style of gardening and concentrated on echoing the natural undulations of the English landscape in his plans. The landscape garden is recognised as one of Britain’s greatest artistic achievements and the designs of Brown and his contemporaries have influenced gardens across the world.

Noble Prospects: Capability Brown and the Yorkshire Landscape is supported by The Landscape Agency, Saffery Champness, Savills, Coutts, Harrogate Borough Council, The Capability Brown Festival 2016, Art Fund, Natural England, The Calmcott Trust, The Friends of the Mercer Art Gallery, Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, Historic Houses Associations Yorkshire Friends, Mr and Mrs J. Samuel and private donors.

New Publication

Noble Prospects will be accompanied by a new book written by Capability Brown expert Karen Lynch, which incorporates new research and considers each of Brown’s Yorkshire landscapes.

The Yorkshire Gardens Trust

The Yorkshire Gardens Trust, an educational charity founded in 1996, works to help conserve, protect and promote Yorkshire’s rich heritage of parks, gardens and designed landscapes.

Noble Prospects: Capability Brown and the Yorkshire Landscape opens at The Mercer Art Gallery on 25 June to 11 September 2016, admission is free. Opening times are 10am – 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday and 2 – 5pm on Sundays. Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays.


KATE WHITEFORD OBE: False Perspectives

18 June to 18 September 2016

The Mercer has commissioned an exhibition of new work by artist Kate Whiteford OBE which looks at the way Capability Brown transformed the English landscape through the manipulation of scale and perspective. False Perspectives, which is funded by Arts Council England will see the gallery transformed by Whiteford’s large-scale prints of oak trees.

Whiteford has drawn inspiration from the oak trees originally planted in the 18th century by Brown at Harewood, Leeds. The exhibition reflects Brown’s clever technique of planting trees of different scales to make the horizon seem further away, thus making the landscape appear to be on a grander scale. He would also place a ‘feature tree’ in the centre of a vista to divide the view and Whiteford plays with this idea within the gallery setting.

Just as Brown's trees in the landscape contribute to an illusion, the trees on the walls of the Mercer Art Gallery also play on the idea of illusion as they are printed in optical colours, which shift and shimmer when seen from different directions.

In 2001 in Sitelines, Harewood Whiteford made a drawing of a monumental Chippendale Sofa onto the Capability parkland within the Harewood estate. Situated below the horizon line and above the lake the sofa plays with Hogarth's 18th century concept of 'the line of beauty'. The furniture of Chippendale and the landscape of Brown were both made at the same time, manufactured and manipulated to serve the prevailing ideas of the time. A large photo-print of Sitelines, Harewood, after Chippendale will be included in the Mercer show as will the drawings for Whiteford's sofa revealing the scale of manipulation of the drawing so that is can be read in the correct perspective.

Whiteford comments: “I feel that it’s ironic that the Capability Brown parklands are now seen as 'natural English landscapes’ when in fact they were anything but natural. Through his designs he transformed the Yorkshire moorland into an Italianate landscape, inspired by those he would have seen in the paintings of Claude Lorrain.”

Whiteford has also been given access to Harrogate’s permanent art collection, from which she has carefully selected a range of works on paper, which will also be on show.

Kate Whiteford is a renowned Scottish artist now based in London, her work is in the permanent collection of the Tate Gallery and she has represented Great Britain at the Venice Biennale.

Kate Whiteford: False Perspectives is at the Mercer Art Gallery from Saturday 18 June to Sunday 18 September 2016, admission is free. Opening times are 10am – 5pm, Tuesday to Saturday and 2 – 5pm on Sundays. Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays. Admission FREE

Commissioned by the Mercer Art Gallery with the support of Arts Council England, Yorkshire.

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Page last updated 14/07/2016