Exhibition | Robert Adam’s London

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on November 26, 2016

Press release (26 October 2016) for the exhibition:

Robert Adam’s London
Sir John Soane’s Museum, 30 November 2016 — 11 March 2017

Curated by Frances Sands

adam_londonThe work of one of the greatest British architects of all time is examined in a new exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum. Robert Adam’s London takes an in-depth look at some of the Scottish architect’s work which helped change the landscape of the capital. Some of the famous buildings looked at in the exhibition include Buckingham Palace, the Admiralty Screen on Whitehall and Portland Place. Robert Adam’s London is the first time the architect’s work across the city as a whole has been examined in a London museum. It will showcase his ground-breaking neo-classical style and his desire to unify architecture and interior design. It will also feature both completed buildings alongside those, which were never realised, offering a glimpse into the architect’s ambitious vision for London.

On display will be some of Sir John Soane’s Museum’s most beautiful, influential, and rarely seen designs of Adam’s projects in London, taken from their 9,000-strong Adam drawing collection. The Museum holds 80% of the world’s surviving Adam drawings which are of huge international-significance for our understanding of Georgian architecture and interior design. Projects on show include the famous Admiralty Screen on Whitehall, Portland Place, and six monuments for Westminster Abbey, as well as projects subsequently demolished or never realised, such as the interiors of Buckingham House (before it became Buckingham Palace), 15 Downing Street, Lansdowne House, and Adelphi. A large-scale facsimile of an eighteenth-century map of London will form the centrepiece of the show, plotting Adam’s various projects across the city, creating an ‘in-exhibition’ trail for visitors. Alongside this will be a portrait of Robert Adam by George Williamson, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, and a pedestal designed by Adam from Kenwood House.

Robert Adam had a long and enduring connection to London, establishing his London practice in 1758 and remaining in the city until his death in 1792. There is a greater density of his work for this city than anywhere else, as he focused on designing complete schemes for the decoration of domestic, public, commercial, speculative and commemorative buildings. His work in London demonstrates how his style evolved past the fashionable Palladian design of the time, into a new, more flexible style, incorporating influences from Roman, Etruscan, and Baroque styles. Adam’s radical style was often attributed to a desire to design everything down to the smallest detail.

Adam regularly favoured large-scale and grandiose designs, many of which remained purely speculative as their ambitions—and cost—were often prohibitive. One such project examined in the exhibition in detail is for Portland Place, where he hoped to construct detached aristocratic palaces which might rival noblemen’s urban homes in Europe. Palaces for the Earls of Kerry and Findlater were designed, but never came to fruition. If they had, central London would have looked significantly different to how it is today.

Bruce Boucher, Director of Sir John Soane’s Museum says: “The Adam Drawings at the Soane Museum is one of our most important collections. Not only is it an invaluable record of the work of one of this country’s most innovative architects, but also a fascinating glimpse into what London could have been had all his projects survived or come to fruition. People have always cared passionately about the architecture of London, as today’s fierce debates testify, so it is wonderful to be able to examine this fascinating chapter in the architectural history of this great city, right in the heart of the city itself.”

Dr Frances Sands, Curator of Drawings and Books at Sir John Soane’s Museum comments: “The Adam office provided designs in deliberate contrast to the more severe neo-Palladian style that had dominated Britain in earlier decades. Adam instigated a fashion for his own recognisable and characteristic style, one not based on dogmatic archaeological accuracy, but rather a creative fusion of all that he had seen abroad. With his distinctive, delicate interior decorative style and bold, rippling architecture, Adam became enormously successful; his practice catered to clients across Britain—and occasionally beyond—but nowhere more heavily than in London. Often remembered as an architect of great country houses, this exhibition celebrates the skill and dexterity of his numerous works here in town.”

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Frances Sands, Robert Adam’s London (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2017), 142 pages, ISBN: 978-1784914622, £18.

The iconic eighteenth-century architect Robert Adam was based in London for more than half of his life and made more designs for this one city than anywhere else in the world. This book reviews a wide variety of his designs for London, highlighting lesser known buildings as well as familiar ones. Each of Adam’s projects explored in this book is plotted on Horwood’s map of London (1792–99), enabling readers to recognise Adam’s work as they move around the city, as well as to envisage London as if more of his ingenious designs had been executed or survived demolition.

Frances Sands is Curator of Drawings and Books at Sir John Soane’s Museum.


New Book | The Prints of Paul Sandby: A Catalogue Raisonné

Posted in books by Editor on November 26, 2016

From Brepols:

Ann Gunn, The Prints of Paul Sandby (1731–1809): A Catalogue Raisonné (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016), 339 pages, ISBN: 978-1909400160, £127 / $195.

cuer_spxgaaabjgBorn in Nottingham, Paul Sandby (1731–1809) is best known as a founder member of the Royal Academy and a prominent figure in the development of British watercolour painting. However, he was also one of the most prolific and inventive printmakers in eighteenth-century Britain. From his early years as a draughtsman for the military survey of Scotland, and later from his extensive tours throughout England and Wales, he depicted the people, towns, castles, and landscapes of the nation. He provided the public with images of their country which contributed to the emerging appreciation of native landscape, to antiquarian interests, and to the development of picturesque tours within the British Isles. Although he never travelled abroad, he reproduced the work of fellow artists who had, tapping into the Grand Tour market with prints of Ionian antiquities, Neapolitan landscapes, and the Roman carnival. But his work encompassed more than landscape; he could move from the pastoral humour of illustrations to Allan Ramsay’s poem The Gentle Shepherd, through the urban realism of his Cries of London to the merciless satire of his attacks on William Hogarth. From the 1740s to the 1780s, he made over 380 prints: engravings, etchings, soft ground etchings, and finally aquatints, a medium in which he was a pioneer. Aquatint enabled printmakers to reproduce the effects of watercolour paintings; Sandby gave the process its name and developed varied techniques which allowed the exact reproduction of the artist’s brush strokes, producing some of the most beautiful prints ever made in this medium.

Ann V. Gunn, a lecturer at the University of St Andrews, has worked as Keeper of Art at Nottingham City Museums, Assistant Registrar at Princeton Art Museum, and Registrar of the University of St Andrews Art Collection. She also ran her own gallery, which specialised in contemporary Scottish art. She is Honorary Curator of the University’s Fine Art Collection. She is also Chair of Fife Contemporary Art & Craft and a member of the Fife Committee of the Art Fund. She is the author of The Prints of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham: A Complete Catalogue (2007).


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