Neoclassicism is a movement of the revival of a classical style of ancient Greece and/ or ancient Rome in decorative arts, literature, architecture, and music. One such movement was dominant in Europe from the mid-18th to the 19th centuries. Neoclassicism focuses on symmetry, primarily with the use of circles and squares. The use of triangular pediments and domed roofs is also prevalent among Neoclassical architecture. These characteristics were affected by the Age of Reason’s ideas that architecture should be logical and balanced instead of over decorative. Neoclassicism was influential in the decorative arts too.
Furniture was designed by designers and produced by furniture makers. One famous architect who designed furniture is Robert Adam. In contrast to the cabriole style leg, he used straight legs and he designed his own patterns on the backs of his chair. Robert Adam’s decorative arts can be seen in the interiors, such as in the Etruscan Room (figure 1) at Osterley Park House. Here, Robert Adam uses classical Roman decorative motifs inspired by Herculaneum and Pompeii. Adam also designed flat grotesque panels, which were inspired from Roman mural painting. figure 1
Although neoclassical architecture was primarily influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, it become a movement of its own, with its own standards and leading figures. The Rotunda (figure 2) by Andrea Palladio was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. It in turn, was inspired by Brunelleschi’s double walled pointed arch dome. The large windows used became know as Palladian windows, which is a prominent feature in neoclassical architecture. The Rotunda then influenced the Chiswick House (figure 3) designed by Lord Burlington. The Chiswick House has a simple symmetrical plan and consist of many Palldian style architectural elements.
The Chiswick House then influenced Thomas Jeffreson’s Monticello in the United States. figure 2figure 3 By the late 18th century, Thomas Jefferson had embraced the neoclassical style in his designs for Monticello (figure 4) and the Virginia State Capitol (figure 5). Monticello was based on the neoclassical principles of Andrea Palladio. Monticello is similar in appearance to the Chiswick House. The Virginia State Capitol is the first Neoclassical building in the United States, inspired by the Mason Carae, with Etruscan stairs, portico, and triangular pediment. Jefferson advocated Neoclassicism as the official rchitectural style of the United States, also known as the Federal style after the American Revolution. For Jefferson, it implied new democracy by tracing its roots back to Greece, the origin of democracy. (figure 4)(figure 5) Neoclassicism was more than just an antique revival; it was a reaction against the over decorative Baroque Art and the Rococo Art of the times. Striving for equality after the revolution of United States and France, Neoclassicism quickly expanded and influenced Europe and North America in decorative arts, literature, architecture, and music.
In the end, it also lead people to a new way of thinking. Bibliography Buie Harwood, Bridgate May, and Curt Sherman, Architecture and Interior Design through the 18th Century. Encyclopedia Britannica, NEOCLASSICISM, http://lilt. ilstu. edu/jhreid/neoclassicism. htm Architecture 411, Neo-Classical Architecture, http://www. architecture411. com/notes/note. php? id_note=6 GreatBuildings, Neo-Classical Architecture, http://www. greatbuildings. com/types/styles/neo-classical. html
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