2005 Clarence Ward Exhibition and Birthday Party

"Books for the Grand Tour: Architecture, Archaeology and the Dilettante."

The Greek Revival in Architecture

The abiding questions of architectural theory from the Renaissance onwards concerned a quest for truth and absolute, universal beauty in the monuments of classical antiquity as a method for elucidating the possibilities of recreation in contemporary works of architecture. James Stuart and Nicholas Revett were protagonists in a related question over the differences and value of Greek and Roman architecture. Their work on the ruins of Athens would provide a sourcebook for architects to emulate and ammunition for the theoretical debate. Thomas Major would in turn enlarge the impact of Greek models on architectural practice by his publication of The Ruins of Paestum. The monuments he documented there were located in region of Italy known in antiquity as Magna Graecia. As the 'scientific' tradition of architectural archaeology advanced chronologically from Desgodets, it also radiated outwards from the well known and repeatedly discussed ruins of Rome to other, less-known sites away from the cultural capitals of classical antiquity.

The effect of all this was to bring about a revolution in British architectural taste much deeper than in other nations such as France concerned with the same issues. Since Palladio's time, his imitation of Roman architecture, based as it was in the country villa, maintained a sure grip on standard architectural tastes in Britain. Sensing the growing controversy over Greece and Rome, Stuart and Revett and Major would capitalize the manifesting distaste and provide noble Grecian models from which to adopt such characteristic elements as the baseless Doric column, as seen in the temples at Paestum.