Art & the Country House was conceived by the Paul Mellon Centre as a research project in 2015. The initial impetus for the project was provided by the late Sir John Guinness, whose deep interest in historic British portraits prompted him to suggest that the Paul Mellon Centre might take an interest in recording images of paintings in British country houses, based upon the model of the Courtauld Institute’s Photographic Survey. It was from this initiative that we began to formulate the present research project devoted to the subject of country house art collection and display. During the early stages of the formation of the project, a number of individuals provided support and ideas on how it might be structured, notably James Miller, MaryAnne Stevens and Jonny Yarker, and to them we are particularly grateful. Personally, I also owe a great debt of gratitude to Mark Hallett, the Centre’s Director, for his enthusiastic championing of the project, and for his guidance in shaping its scholarly framework and research questions.

There are many people to be thanked for their contributions to the project. First and foremost are the owners and custodians of the eight houses, who provided our researchers with access to their properties and their collections: Nicholas Howard and Victoria Barnsley at Castle Howard, Claire and James Birch at Doddington Hall, the Earl and Countess of Oxford and Asquith at Mells Manor, John Bute at Mount Stuart, Lord and Lady Egremont at Petworth, the Marquess and Marchioness Townshend at Raynham Hall, Michael Galsworthy at Trewithen and Sir Edward Dashwood at West Wycombe. We are immensely grateful to all these individuals for sharing their collections and archives with us, and for communicating their knowledge and enthusiasm.

I am, of course, tremendously grateful to all the contributors to the project: curators, academics, independent scholars, archivists and conservators – more than forty in total – who have written essays and catalogue entries, transcribed inventories and shared their expertise with us in films. These individuals are listed in the index to the project and in the individual biographies that append their contributions.

Many others have contributed along the way, participating in study days, workshops and conferences; answering queries or sharing their specialist skills and knowledge through conversation and correspondence. I would particularly like to thank the following individuals: Brian Allen, Susanna Avery-Quash, Juliet Carey, Jo Cartwright, John Chu, Joan Coutu, John D’Arcy, Peter Davison, Jessica Feather, Rupert Featherstone, Joe Friedman, Deborah Gage, John Goodall, Richard Green, Michael Hall, Lydia Hamlett, Richard Johns, Alastair Laing, Lowell Libson, Hannah Lyons, Alice Martin, Caroline McCaffrey-Howarth, Paul Mitchell, David Moore-Gwyn, Elizabeth Morton, Laurel Peterson, Nicola Pickering, Geoff Quilley, Tor Riley, Charlotte Rostek, James Rothwell, Francis Russell, Andrew Sanders, Charles Sebag-Montefiore, Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Jacob Simon, Amelia Smith, Anthony Smith, Roey Sweet, Johnny Wake, Karin Wolfe, Lynsey Woods and Alison Yarrington.

Aside from house owners and custodians, contributors and colleagues, a key role in preparing the online publication has been undertaken by our copy editors, Katharine Ridler, Christine Considine and Colin Grant; our draughtsman, Martin Brown; and Alex Kidson, who read and commented upon the various essays and catalogue entries. A great deal of new photography was commissioned for the project, and we are very grateful to photographers Simon Burt, Matthew Hollow, Keith Hunter, Martine La Roche, Alexey Moskvin, Dave Penman, Rodolfo Acevedo Rodriguez, Tom St Aubyn and Caroline True, as well as freelance picture researcher Jennifer Camilleri.

We are also grateful to our colleagues at Keepthinking who were involved in the design and development of the site, particularly Katie Murphy, Juliana Holzhauer-Barrie, Alistair Cooper, Jayeon Lee and Haisam Abdo Amin.

To Alice Read, who led the Paul Mellon Centre’s in-house digital team on the project, we owe a huge debt of gratitude, as she calmly bore the brunt of translating our various scholarly endeavours – essays, catalogues, documents and images – onto the website. Also on the PMC digital team, I would like to thank Freddie Pegram, who, painstakingly over many months, transferred material onto the site. As ever, all my colleagues at the Paul Mellon Centre provided vital support as the project developed over the five-year period, not least the Archive and Library Collections team: Charlotte Brunskill, Emma Floyd, Natasha Held and Jenny Hill. The Centre’s picture researcher, Maisoon Rehani, has played a vital role in the project, sourcing many hundreds of images, and has been indefatigable in her quest to track down even the most obscure ones, for which I am extremely grateful. Finally, I would like to thank my colleague Emily Lees, our editor, for her unswerving support in organising all the logistics that underpin the project’s scholarly content, and for her level-headed determination to ensure that the publication was delivered to the agreed deadline and to the highest professional standards.

– Martin Postle, November 2020