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Thursday, 8 December 2022

Long Live the Christmas Tree!

I reckon we are near enough to Christmas now for me to start the sparkly seasonal blog posts! 

'Long Live the Christmas Tree!' is the title of the Christmas exhibition at Harewood House. Our stately homes often dress elaborately for Christmas. (It brings in revenue). This year, Harewood has moved away from the traditional into something much more adventurous, with eleven artists being commissioned to create their own version of the classic pine or spruce tree. It was wonderfully different but also joyful and colourful. 

There were traditional trees, notably in the Gallery (above), but these were part of an installation by Leeds-based Opera North with composer Martin Green, who reworked the song 'O Tannebaum' into a surround-sound musical experience. (Thanks to my friend for the photo above. For some reason mine turned into a one second video! Not what I intended but it's too easy to nudge something on my phone!) 

In the Music Room, we found 'Aurora' (above) by Yasemen Hussein. Beautifully constructed of copper hung with shimmering crystals, it references ancient beliefs about the sun god and how winter comes when the sun god is sick and weak. The winter solstice marks the turning point where the sun god starts to revive. Evergreen boughs hung above the door were believed to protect a house against evil spirits and misfortune. 

A cone of antlers (gathered from the Harewood estate) supports a shining sun disk, in a sculpture called 'Day of the Birth of the Unconquered Sun' by Simon Costin. The idea of the Roman winter solstice and the festival of Saturnalia is linked with the North European Yuletide, quite appropriate for a grand house which holds many references to classical mythology in its decorative aspects. (And maybe even a cheeky nod to Santa's Rudolph in the antlers!)

Andy Singelton's 'Ribbon Tree', an intricate, floating paper sculpture in the Spanish Library, takes inspiration from  Christmas ribbon as well as the Neoclassical decoration seen in Harewood's wallcoverings and Robert Adam plasterwork.

In the State Bedroom, 'A Christmas Bee' by Meriel Hunt brings a reminder of the hard-working bees on Harewood's estate and introduces their hive, made of wood and straw and reimagined as a Christmas tree, into a room that is fit for a queen (bee). 

My final photo shows 'Luna' by Swallows and Damsons' founder, Anna Potter. A huge wreath of wild material (Mugwort and Honesty among them) foraged from the Harewood Estate offers a nod to the feminine Mother Nature, arranged to encircle Harewood's imposing modern sculpture of 'Adam': yin and yang. Linger long enough and you become aware of a delicate scent from these plants, which all have medicinal qualities. 

It was delightful to process through Harewood's beautiful State Rooms, rendered a bit differently by the altered lighting, and enjoy these really creative artworks. 


  1. I would enjoy the first and last...but be somewhat pushed to even consider the more artsy ones...especially the justaposition with the environment. In a museum with white walls and floors, sure...but in these gorgeous rooms...help!

  2. These are wonderful. The Ribbon Tree is amazing to be made from paper.

  3. I love these different interpretaions!