An Explosion of Beauty: The Art, Architecture & Collections of British Country Houses

“Nowhere in the world are there so many country houses as in England, matchless for the astonishing variety of their styles and the richness of their collections and furniture.”

This quote from the English architectural historian John Harris sums up what many scholars believe is Britain’s greatest and most lasting contribution to international culture: the country house. For centuries these houses, famous for their breathtaking interiors stuffed with jaw-dropping collections of art, held a unique position in British life. Their occupants, the wealthiest and most titled people in the kingdom, ruled the country and oversaw vast agricultural estates that were the focus of thriving local communities.

American author David Littlejohn perfectly summed up these art collections: “The country houses of England, taken all together, contain the most valuable and important collection of portable art in the world, and more great Old Masters—paintings dated before 1800—than the rest of the world put together…in no other country do private collections contain anything even close to the number or quality of works of pre-modern art one can find in English country houses.”

During six 90-minute sessions that took place in late 2020 and early 2021, Curt DiCamillo taught an online course on the history of these astonishing stately homes, their interiors, their world-class art collections, and the stories of the families who occupied them. Spanning over four hundred years, the course covered Medieval, Jacobean, Restoration, Baroque, Palladian, Rococo, Chinoiserie, Neoclassical, and Chinese & Indian styles and examined how each influenced the design, architecture, and culture of British society.


Curt is a cross between Kenneth Clark and James Lees-Milne, but with much more verve and warmth.