Study Aid 6: English Palladianism, The Picturesque, and French Neoclassicism

The eighteenth century was one of the most interesting and eventlful periods in Western history. In fact, many historians date the beginning of our "modern" era to the mid-century when contemporary attitudes toward nature, history, science, politics, society, and the arts were developed and popularized. A century of great intellectual ferment, it nurtured many different approaches to architectural design.

English Palladianism
Early in the eighteenth century, designers in England turned away from the Baroque to the relative purity and clarity of the Renaissance embodied by the designs of Palladio. This movement is called Palladianism and can be seen as a precursor of the larger Neoclassical movement that would gain popularity later in the century. Chiswick House, near London, 1723-9, Lord Burlington & William Kent architects; Holkham Hall, Norfolk, England, 1743-, William Kent, Burlington, and Brettingham, architects. Books such as Cloin Campbell's "Vitruvius Britannicus" and James Gibbs' "A Book of Architecture" (1728) helped promote and spread Palladianism in Europe and America. Palladian buildings erected in America are often called "Georgian." Urban planning in eighteenth century Britain is best characterized by the privately-financed development of uniform row houses arranged in streets or squares, e.g. Bedford Square, London, 1775, Thomas Leverton architect (?); the Circus, Bath, 1754-, John Wood the Elder architect; the Royal Crescent, John Wood the Younger.

The Picturesque
The Palladians' search for a purer architecture also helped lead to a new kind of landscape design that sought naturalistic effects rather than the rigorously controlled image of nature seen in Baroque gardens. The landscape and architectural designs of this new mode are grouped under the heading of "the Picturesque." The Picturesque sought a certain romantic alliance with nature through irregularity and naturalism. Gardens in this mode include: Stourhead, Wiltshire, England (1743-76, Henry Hoare II patron and Planner), with its enchanting collection of follies; and the redesign of the garden at Blenheim, Oxfordshire, c. 1764, by landscaper Lancelot "Capability" Brown. While the appreciation for the overwhelming or morbid aesthetic pleasures of the sublime were first given architectural expression in follies like grottoes it also contributed to the birth of the Gothic Revival. These buildings invoked associations with a romanticized medieval spookiness and gloom, e.g. Strawberry Hill, near London, 1749-76, various architects, Horace Walpole patron; Fonthill Abbey, Wiltshire, 1796-1813, James Wyatt archtitect, William Beckford patron.

Partly a reaction to Rococo excess, French Neoclassicism was particularly stimulated by the intellectual advances of the Enlightenment with its sometimes-contradictory appreciation of rationalism and purity, freedom and emotion. Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau extolled the latter principles, while the Abbé Laugier's Essai sur l'architecture (1753) embodied the former. Jacques Soufflot's Pantheon (Ste. Geneviéve, Paris, 1757-1790) represents a return to architectural purity, as well as an interest in structural experimentation. Other buildings representing this monumental simplicity include the Hotel de Salm (now the Legion of Honor), Paris, 1783, Pierre Rousseau architect; and the School of Surgery, Paris, 1769-75, Jacques Gondoin architect. In the last quarter of the century Etienne-Louis Boullée and Claude-Louis Ledoux developed a "visionary" or "revolutionary" neoclassicism where an attention to pure geometric form is often combined with a sublime sense of space and scale, e.g. Cenotaph for Isaac Newton, c. 1784, Boullée architect; design for a museum, c. 1783, Boullée arch; Barriere de la Villette, Paris, 1773-6, Ledoux arch; Royal Saltworks, Arc-et-Senans, Ledoux arch; project for "Chaux", 1780-1804, Arc-et-Senans, Ledoux arch. Architecture (such as "visionary" Neoclassicism) that seeks to communicate its use through form or symbol is described by the French term architecture parlante.

Chiswick House

Date: 1723-29
Location: Chiswick, London
Architects: Lord Burlington and William Kent
Patron: Lord Burlington

Plan and Elevation

Front Elevation

Side Elevation

Interior View of Blue Velvet Room

Interior View of Central Octagonal Hall

Royal Crescent

Date: 1767-1775
Location: Bath, England
Architect: John Wood the Younger

Aerial View



Stourhead Park

Date: 1743-1776 AD
Location: Wiltshire, England
Architect: Flitcroft and Hoare
Patron: Henry Hoare II


View from the Grotto


Planned Vista to the Bristol Cross

Temple of Apollo

View in the 18th Century

Recent View

Fonthill Abbey

Date: 1796-1812
Location: Wiltshire, England
Architect: James Wyatt
Patron: William Beckford


Distant View

After Collapse

Distant View (Spire Never Built)

Interior - Hall

Interior - Central Hall

Distant View

Essai sur l'architecture (1753)

Date: 1753
Architect: Abbé Laugier


Pantheon (Ste-Genevieve)

Date: 1757-1790
Location: Paris, France
Architect: Jacques Soufflot

Front Elevation

Exterior View - Front and Side Elevations


View of Concealed Flying Buttresses

Interior View

Exterior - Detail

Cenotaph for Isaac Newton

Date: c.1784
Architect: Etienne-Louis Boullée


Exterior View During the Daytime

Exterior View During the Nighttime

Section During the Daytime

Section During the Nighttime

Royal Salt Works

Date: 1775-1779
Location: Arc et Senans, France
Architect: Claude-Louis Ledoux

Aerial View
Salt Works Included in the Later Plan for Chaux

Detail of Grotto Entrance
Salt Works Included in the Later Plan for Chaux

Director's House
Salt Works Included in the Later Plan for Chaux


Date: 1780-1804
Location: Arc et Senans, France
Architect: Claude-Louis Ledoux


Wood Cutter's House

Bird's Eye View of Cannon Factory

Plan and Elevation of the Oikema
(House of Sexual Instruction)

Plan and Section of the Mausoleum