VII
THE BATTLE OF THE STYLES

INTERESTED circles at the opening of the century debated the battle of the styles as one between Roman and Greek. The first volume of The Antiquities of Athens by James Stuart (d. 1788) and Nicholas Revett (d. 1804) had appeared in 1762, but its immediate impact had been small. The great Romanist Sir William Chambers, could when lecturing in the sixties scornfully refer to the pomp with which 'the Grecian antiquities have lately been ushered into the World and what Encomiums have been lavished upon things that in Reality deserve little or no Notice'.1 In 1791, however, he was a little less confident: 'latterly the Gusto Greco has again ventured to peep forth, and once more threatens an invasion'.2 The invasion was, however, a leisurely one, and it was not till 1816 that Stuart's unpublished papers were collected by Josiah Taylor into a fourth volume of The Antiquities of Athens. By then 'the opposite and vicious style of Robert Adam'3 was securely displaced, but the 'chastness and purity' of the Grecian advocates had still to contend with the ready eclecticism of Regency taste and the uninhibited designs of John Nash. In establishing a new bulwark of correctness, 'white and modern, the handwriting of our race, in this practical nineteenth century, on its square plain masonry and Doric shafts',4 two names stand out, William Wilkins, the most scholarly of the Grecians, and Sir Robert Smirke, perhaps the dullest.

Wilkins was the protégé of Thomas Hope, and it was through his advocacy that, as a young man of twenty-six, he obtained in

____________________
1
Quoted L. Lawrence, "Stuart and Revett", Journ. of Warburg Institute, ii ( 1938), 136. For the Greek revival in England see M. L. Clarke, Greek Studies in England 1700-1830 ( Cambridge, 1945).
2
Elements of Civil Architecture, i (ed. 1825), 135; see N. Pevsner and S. Lang, "Apollo or Baboon", Arch. Rev. civ ( 1948), 271. For general topics in this chapter see works quoted p. 66, n. 1.
3
Joseph Gwilt, Encyclopaedia of Architecture ( 1842).
4
Lord Lytton, A Strange Story, ii. 36, written as late as 1862.

-176-

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English Art, 1800-1870
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Plates ix
  • List of Figures xxi
  • Abbreviations xxiii
  • I- Romanticism 1
  • II- Painters in Water-Colour 29
  • III- The Regency Style 65
  • IV- Turner and Constable 97
  • V- Statuary 128
  • VI- The Age of Wilkie 149
  • VII- The Battle of the Styles 176
  • VIII- State Patronage 203
  • IX- Restoration and Revival 223
  • X- The Great Exhibition 254
  • XII- Memorials, Portraits, And Photography 299
  • Bibliography 321
  • Index 331
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