Hélène Binet: Discovering Jewish Country Houses

19 September 2024 to 8 January 2025 Strawberry Hill House

Left: A stone fountain stands in front of a darkened building entrance, surrounded by tree branches. Right: An ornate ceiling with intersecting arches and soft lighting, creating a dramatic, geometric pattern in grayscale.

New exhibition at Strawberry Hill House & Waddesdon Manor

Hélène Binet (b.1959) is one of the world’s leading photographers. This new exhibition at Strawberry Hill House (19 September 2024 – 8 January 2025) and Waddesdon Manor (19 March – 22 June 2025) showcases a new body of work, capturing an extraordinary group of houses, owned, built or renovated by Jews.

The display of more than 20 works takes as its inspiration the new book The Jewish Country Houses (edited by Juliet Carey and Abigail Green, Profile Books, 2024), which sheds new light on a previously overlooked category of country houses owned, renovated, and at times built by Jews and individuals of Jewish descent.

Binet was commissioned to create photographic essays about nine houses, two mausoleums and a synagogue explored, to capture their extraordinary and varied exteriors, gardens and interiors.The properties featured encompass a remarkable stylistic range, from the playful historicism of Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire and the gothic castle of Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham to a reinvention of an ancient Greek villa with Villa Kérylos on the Côte d’Azur and the modernist masterpiece that is the Villa Tugendhat in the Czech city of Brno. Some of the houses are celebrated tourist destinations, others are little known.

Country houses are powerful symbols of national identity, evoking the glamorous world of the landowning aristocracy. Jewish country houses tell a more complex story of prejudice and integration, difference and connection. Many had spectacular art collections and gardens. Some were stages for lavish entertaining, while others provided inspiration to the European avant garde. A few are now museums of international importance; many more are hidden treasures: all were beloved homes that bear witness to the remarkable achievements of newly emancipated Jews across Europe - and to a dream of belonging that mostly came to a brutal end with the Holocaust.

Binet’s photographs, offer an alternative to familiar, celebratory conventions of country-house photography, and help to establish these places as sites of Jewish memory.

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