THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY


Reading: Architecture, chapter nine; pp. 369--376; chapter ten, pp. 387--402; 407--423; chapter eleven, pp. 435--438, 442--444

Rococo, Neoclassicism and Romanticism are three influential movements from the eighteenth century, a pluralistic century of "movements" rather than of period styles (in that respect, much like our own times). These movements are not sequential developments, but constantly overlapping reactions and counteractions.

The Rococo style: The art of the first half of the eighteenth century represents, in some respects, a continuation of the High Baroque style. It matters little whether Neumann, for example, was a Rococo or Late Baroque architect. Italy, Southern Germany, and France remained tied to the Baroque tradition in its last manifestation, the Rococo, in which the interaction of space and form in movement remained a basic element of design.

The French architect Germain Boffrand (1667-1754) was one of the most distinguished designers in Paris of private palaces and town houses (hotels) for the aristocracy. In his designs for both exteriors and interiors, an impression of elegance and refinement is given by the use of smooth, light-colored surfaces, occasionally curved, and extensive areas of glass (windows and mirrors). Exterior decoration comprises restrained patterns of horizontal grooves, variations in the curved crowns of window openings, and occasional accents of sculpture in low relief. On the interior, mirrors, wall panelling, and window openings are united by rocaille ornament: a free, curvilinear two- dimensional pattern of crisp stucco plant and shell forms, in arabesques and cartouches, open and lively in contour and occasionally asymmetrical. Furniture and painted panels pick up the rhythms of this architectural ornament. Such Rococo decoration was particularly popular in Germany, as represented here by Amalienburg.

Neoclassicism. Eighteenth-century archeological studies combined with a reaction in taste against the decorative Rococo style, and a desire to revive certain of the historical connotations of the ancient world (such as the heroic virtues of the Roman Republic) produced a Neo- Classical revival in the second half of the eighteenth century in Europe and the United States--although the brilliant villa at Chiswick was much earlier. Classicizing works of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (especially those of Palladio) often served as models. In general, earlier Neo-Classicism uses Roman models and emphasizes their republican associations. The Greek Doric order is revived, and we speak specifically of the Greek Revival style.

Thomas Jefferson (American, 1743-1826), an architect as well as a statesman and a scholar, was well read in the classicist theories of architecture and acquainted with the famous models of European classicism. His desire to establish a sense of cultural tradition in this new country is reflected in his architecture. For his own country house (Monticello), he modified a Palladio design to meet local practical needs, and "translated" it into local materials. He was one of the first architects to adapt Roman building types to the functional requirements of public and academic buildings.

Romanticism. Neo-Classicism was one aspect of the wider Romantic movement (c. 1750-1850), which began, primarily in England and Germany, as an urge towards simple, sincere feeling and natural behavior as opposed to court etiquette. All historical styles were thought to be natural and desirable as antidotes to the unpleasant reality of Rococo artificiality and the industrial revolution. The word "romantic" was applied to whatever might call forth "sublime" associations: ruins and other reminders of past grandeur and of the melancholy passage of time; manifestations of the forces of nature and man's impotence before them; and expressions of extreme emotion, reflecting the uncontrolled forces in man's nature, from passion to insanity. The Gothic style--used by Horace Walpole at Strawberry Hill--was considered one to bring out these associations; but there are buildings reflecting the exotic styles of China, Egypt, and, in the nineteenth century, North Africa. Although the outward forms of the revival styles are copied, sometimes fancifully, sometimes exactly, the content is never that of the original style, but always "romantic".

Key works:

1. Francois Cuvillies Sr.: Amalienburg, near Munich, 1734--39; figs. 602--603.
2. The Earl of Burlington (Richard Boyle) and William Kent: Chiswick House, near London, begun 1725 [ 128]; colorplate 59
3. Horace Walpole: Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, England, nr. London, 1749--1777 [ 290 exterior; 289 view of long hall interior: the vaults are plaster]; figs. fig. 629.
4. Robert Adam: Syon House nr. London, 1761-76 (see also under Neoclassical); figs.625--628.
5. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826): Monticello, Charlottesville, VA, 1770-84 and 1796-1806; fig. 701
6. Jefferson: Virginia State Capitol, Richmond, 1785-89 [ 295 as photographed by Matthew Brady during the Civil War, showing its distinct Acropolis effect: cf. 019]; fig. 702
7. Jefferson: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 1814; 1817--1826 [ 297 view of lawn leading to Pantheon-like library (cf. 031)]; fig. 703.
8. Abbe Laugier: Essai sur l'architecture (Essay on Architecture), 1753 [ 127 frontispiece for 1755 edition, showing the "natural" state of architecture].
9. Germain Soufflot: The Pantheon, Paris (ex-church of Ste.- Genevieve), 1755-92 [ 300 plan; 299 exterior as modified; 298 interior view]; fig. 643, 644.
10. Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736-1806): industrial city for the Royal Saltworks at Chaux (the Salines de Chaux), Arc-et-Senans, France, 1775-79 [ 126 Saltworks as built, and as standing today]; fig. 658 (partially as built, partially as developed later into an ideal city plan); figs. 659-660: gatehouse and director's house, as built and standing today.
11. Ledoux: house for the Loue River superintendent, c. 1785 (project; published 1804 and 1847); fig. 654.
12. Etienne-Louis Boulee, Projected cenotaph for Newton, 1783 [ 296 interior with nighttime illumination]; figs. 669, 670.
13. Karl Friedrich von Schinkel: Altes Museum, Berlin, 1824-30 [ 294 plan; 293 exterior today; 292 interior of the rotunda: cf. with 200,the Pantheon dome; 291 interior corridor view]; figs. 684--687.

Works in context:

  • Germain Boffrand: Salon de la Princesse, Hotel de Soubise, Paris, 1735-40; fig. 589.
  • John Wood the Elder and Younger, Circus (1764) and Royal Crescent (1767), Bath, England, p. 193.
  • John Nash: Royal Pavilion, Brighton, England, 1815 [ 129]
  • Ledoux: Barrier de Monceau, Paris, c. 1785.
  • J.-N-.L. Durand, "Lectures on Architecture," Paris, 1802 [ 154 modular basis for rational architecture]