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Neoclassicism and Romanticism

Basic knowledge about classical and gothic architecture is needed!


1780 - 1850

It corresponds to the reaction against the Baroque as the style of Absolutism

It corresponds loosely with the Enlightenment, Age of Reason

influence of Classic and a nostalgia for past civilisations

adoption of classical forms

rationalism in architecture

Cumberland Terrace, Regents Park, London, by John Nash, 1826-27

early (1720)

architects: Lord Burlington, Colen Campbell

begin of the turning away from Baroque style

characterised by a simpler and more restrained style

first fully neoclassical building in 1731: Lord Burlingtons Assembly Rooms at York,
based on Palladios reconstruction of an Egyptian hall

The next generation of architects remained conservative (Baroque)

birth of English Neoclassicism

initiated by Robert Adams

use of antique forms in a new context

planning based on contrasting room shapes and spaces

time of R. Adams over by 1780

The new generation

new mood: the aims were a noble simplicity and antique grandeur

they were sick of gingerbread and snippets of embroidery

By 1800 nearly all English architecture reflected the Neoclassical spirit

After 1800 the interest in revival of Greek forms intensified and the stream of buildings
based either wholly or in part on Greek models continued well into the 19 th century (e.g.
Cambridge College (1806-11) with details closely copied from the Erechtheum on the
Acropolis at Athens)

1760 - 1870 but the date of its beginning is not easy to pinpoint

The architectural movement most commonly associated with Romanticism is the

Gothic Revival, used to embrace the entire Neo-Gothic movement

The Gothic Revival lingered on late in the 19 th century and survived even into the
20th. (e.g. Sir John Ninian Comper continued to employ it right up to the time of his
death in 1960)

Fronthill Abbey, Wiltshire, designed by James Wyatt, 1796-1807


For, even when there were no particular liking for Gothic, conservatism and local
building practices had conditioned its use as the style for churches and collegiate
buildings. In its earliest phase, therefore, Gothic Revival is not easily distinguished
from Gothic survival.

A Gothic revival was in a sense initiated early in England during the late 16 th century
under the influence of Elizabethan and Jacobean notions of chivalry and again
between 1620 and 1630 under the impetus of William Lands Anglicanism but there
is no precise point.

With developing archaeological interest and with religious revivals of the early 19 th
century, the movement manifested itself in a spate of church building in the Gothic

The seriousness and moral pursuit of this movement were formulated as a doctrine
and presented as a challenge to the intellect.

The second half of the 19th century saw the active and highly productive period of
the Gothic Revival. By then, the mere imitation of Gothic forms and details was its
least important aspect; architects were intend on creating original works of
architecture based on principles underlying Gothic architecture and deeply infused
with its spirit. The great buildings of the Gothic Revival all date from this period.
Once the conviction of the intellectual honesty and moral rectitude lapsed, however,
the movement quickly became a simple stylistic revival.

2 great achievements: 1. not as rigid, codified, restrictive as the Classical or

Neoclassical style

2. Structural elements could be provided as and where they were needed.

Functionalism and structural honesty as ideals in the modern architectural movement are a
legacy of the Gothic Revival.

By the middle of the 1850s, Gothic had become the established mode for church and
many other types of architecture.

Examples: Albert Memorial (1862-70), Hyde Park , London

Glasgow University (1866-72)

Although superficially opposite, Neoclassicism and Romanticism share the same roots,
similar motivations and compositional expressions, equally reflecting the mood of age that
created them

Source: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 13 - Macropaedia, Knowledge in Depth

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