New Book | Robert Adam and His Brothers

Posted in books by Editor on August 17, 2019

Distributed in partnership with Liverpool UP, which offers this special offer for Enfilade readers: at checkout, enter the code ROBERTADAM20 for a 20% discount.

Colin Thom, ed., Robert Adam and His Brothers: New Light on Britain’s Leading Architectural Family (Swindon: Historic England, 2019), 280 pages, ISBN: 978-1848023598, £65.

Robert Adam is perhaps the best known of all British architects, the only one whose name denotes both a style and an era. The new decorative language he introduced at Kedleston and Syon around 1760 put him at the forefront of dynamic changes taking place in 18th-century British architecture. His later claim that his practice with his brother James had effected ‘a kind of revolution’ in design was no idle boast. Their style dominated the later Georgian period and their influence was widespread, not only in Western Europe but in Russia and North America. But for such a well-known figure, much of Robert Adam’s art still remains poorly understood.

This new study, based on papers given at a Georgian Group symposium in 2015, looks afresh at many aspects of the Adam brothers’ oeuvre, such as interior planning, their use of colour, the influence of classical sources, their involvement in the art market, town planning and building speculation, and Robert Adam’s late picturesque drawings and castle designs – all within the context of the Adam family background and their personal and working relationships. The Scottish architecture of Robert and James’s older brother, John, is also assessed. There are essays by established Adam experts as well as contributions from a younger generation of historians and postdoctoral scholars, one of the book’s aims being to stimulate further research on the Adams’ contribution to British architecture, art and design.

Colin Thom is a Senior Research Associate with the Survey of London at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture and an expert on the work of the Adam brothers.


Colin Thom, Introduction: ‘Some Promising Young Men’: Robert Adam and His Brothers
1  Alistair Rowan, Johnnie, the Eldest Adam Brother
2  Jonathan Yarker, ‘Antique Mad’: The Adams as Dealers and Their Stock of Antiquities
3  Jerzy J. Kierkuc-Bielinski, Context and Attribution: Antonio Zucchi’s Portrait of James Adam (1763)
4  Adriano Aymonino, ‘The True Style of Antique Decoration’: Agostino Brunias and the Birth of the Adam Style at Kedleston Hall and Syon House
5  Miranda Hausberg, Robert Adam’s Scenographic Interiors
6  Conor Lucey, Design by Correspondence: Robert Adam and Headfort House
7  Peter N. Lindfield, A ‘Classical Goth’: Robert Adam’s Engagement with Medieval Architecture
8  David King, The Ingenious Mr Adam
9  Colin Thom, The Adam Brothers and Portland Place: A Reassessment
10  Marrikka Trotter, Temporal Sublime: Robert Adam’s Castle Style and Geology in the Scottish Enlightenment
11  Eileen Harris, ‘The Parent Style or the Original Sin’: The Adam Revival in America


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