classic revival

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

classic revival

classic revival, widely diffused phase of taste (known as neoclassic) which influenced architecture and the arts in Europe and the United States during the last years of the 18th and the first half of the 19th cent. The era was characterized by enthusiasm for classical antiquity and for archaeological knowledge, stimulated by the excavations of Roman remains at Pompeii and Herculaneum and by the commencement of archaeological investigation in Greece by James Stuart and Nicholas Revett in 1751. The results were embodied in their joint work, Antiquities of Athens, of which the first volume (1762) is considered to have been responsible for a changed direction in taste. Stuart's garden temple in Greek Doric style (1758) at Hagley, England, was the first example of Greek revival design in Western Europe; but the utilization of Greek material was generally delayed until the latter part of the revival, while the earlier phase confined itself to Roman models. In France the imitation of ancient Rome predominated in the crystallizing of the Empire style sponsored by Napoleon. In the United States, after the Revolution, this same spirit served in the formation of a style for public buildings. Thomas Jefferson's design for the Virginia state capitol (1785) at Richmond marks the return to the monumental Roman temple for inspiration. In America the Greek phase, known as neo-Grec or Greek revival, achieved its first expression, and an exceedingly influential one, in the Bank of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (1799); it was designed by Benjamin H. Latrobe to imitate a Greek Ionic temple. The Roman and the Greek aspects of the classic revival eventually allied themselves in a Greco-Roman form. The influence of the revival was felt everywhere in Europe and particularly in Great Britain. But in no country did it dominate as in the United States, where classic colonnades were appended to state capitols and to modest farm houses throughout the land. After the Civil War its severe later phase was extinguished by the romantic styles of the Victorian period. Among the important buildings of the American classic revival are the Washington monument, Baltimore (1815), by Robert Mills; Bank of the United States, Philadelphia (1819–24), by William Strickland; campus buildings, Univ. of Virginia (1817–26), by Thomas Jefferson; Merchants' Exchange, Philadelphia (1832–34), by William Strickland; main building, Girard College, Philadelphia (1833–47), by T. U. Walter; and dome and wings of the Capitol at Washington (1851–65), by T. U. Walter.

See T. Hamlin, Greek Revival Architecture in America (1944); D. Wiebenson, Sources of Greek Revival Architecture (1969).

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