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Neoclassical Architecture

Neoclassical Architecture

Author: Ian McConnell
Description:

This lesson will examine Neoclassical architecture.

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Tutorial

An overview of Neoclassical architecture.

Video Transcription

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello. I'd like to welcome you to this episode of Exploring Art History with Ian. My name is Ian McConnell, and today's lesson is about Neoclassical architecture. If you're watch the video, feel free to pause, move forward, or rewind as often as you feel as necessary, and as soon as you're ready, we ca begin.

Today's objectives are listed below. By the end of lesson today, you will be able to identify and define today's key terms, describe the stylistic characteristics of Neoclassical architecture, and identify examples of Neoclassical architecture. Key terms as always are listed in yellow throughout the lesson. First key term is planar-- two dimensional quality, having flat characteristics. Enframed-- enclosed, as within a picture frame. Bas-relief-- a type of sculpture where the background is carved or modeled significantly lower than the forms or figures, but is not viewed in the round.

Gilded-- a surface that is thinly covered with gold paint, or with gold that is hammered into an extremely thin sheet called gold leaf. Civic responsibility-- expectation of an individual viewed as a member of society to participate in duties, obligations, or functions. And patriotism-- an act of commitment, dedication, loyalty, and/or defense by a citizen of a country.

The big idea for today-- that Neoclassical architecture drew its inspiration from classical architecture, and incorporated the use of classical features like columns, triangular pediments, and domes. So the architecture that we're looking at today dates from between 1729 and 1842.

We'll be traveling to a few places today, including Chiswick, England, Paris, France, and Charlottesville, Virginia. Now the artistic style of Neoclassical architecture in a nutshell consists of an overall minimalistic design, planar exterior, lack of decoration, and simplicity. Keep these characteristics in mind as we examine our architecture examples today.

The Pantheon in France is different than the Pantheon located in Rome. The Neoclassical example of architecture that actually functions today as a mausoleum for important or notable French citizens like Marie Curie, who was the first woman whose ashes were interred there. That's considered the most typical example of Neoclassical architecture in France, and draws its inspiration from a number of places, including the designs of the Renaissance architect Palladio of Italy in its central plan design.

The large facade is inspired by the ancient Greek and Roman temple designs, like the other pantheon in Rome. The large dome on top with the columnar drum recalls the dome on St. Paul Cathedral in London, England. The sculptural program of the pediment is the only area decoration, but is far from elaborate.

In classical fashion, each element plays a role in the design compliments the other design elements of the structure. The overall theme is one of simplicity and minimalism. The emphasis is on cohesive structure rather than decoration, and this is a notable movement away from the grandeur drama of the broke and the elaborate and occasionally ostentatious depending on taste. The detail of the Rococo, both of which had come to be associated with absolute monarchy.

If you didn't know better, you might mistake this next example for the Pantheon in Athens, Greece. However, it was actually inspired by the Maison Carree-- it means "France shown here". Regardless, it's clear where the root of influence exists. Neoclassical design ethic borrowed elements like the column, triangular pediment, and the dome from classical designs. We'll take a look at the dome in just a moment.

Similar to the Pantheon in Maison Carree, it's a colonnaded exterior that supports a massive group section that terminates in a large triangular pediment. However, this isn't a pagan temple. It's actually a church. The pediment is filled with a sculptural program depicting The Last Judgment.

Now on the interior you can see evidence of the dome which we can't see in the other image, and some rather lavish decorations in the Gilded capitals and will contrast rather noticeably with a more austere exterior.

If we move to Chiswick, England, we can see the inspiration of the late Italian architect Palladio on private homes at this time. Now in what was later dubbed Neo-Palladian after the architect. The style recalls those elements that made the villas of Palladio so influential. Chiswick House's architected Richard Boyle was inspired by Palladio's design on a visit to Italy. Now his house is similar to Palladio's own vision with some noticeable differences.

The symmetry is bilateral versus quadrilateral, like you would see in many of Palladio's villas. Only two entrances exist versus four, and the interior is octagonal verses round. You can tell that it's octagonal by looking at the dome, or the drum rather that supports the dome. Speaking of the dome, look in Palladio's designs. It recalls the Roman Pantheon. And notice the lack of excessive or extravagant decoration. It's a careful and cohesive application of basic classical design elements.

So the influence of Palladio is rather impressive. Oftentimes, influential designs will proliferate within that confined geographic area. The Palladio's extended well beyond Italy's borders into England by Chiswick House, and far overseas into the American Architectural aesthetic--- those taking form in places like Virginia.

Now Thomas Jefferson was a man of many hats. He was one of the principal authors of the Declaration of Independence. He was the third president of the United States, and he was an amateur yet very skilled architect. The design of his home in Monticello in Virginia is a wonderful example of the Neo-Palladian design in the United States.

The simple temple facade and classical design elements fuse with later architectural developments, like the balustrade that lines the edge of the roof, and also what appears to be perhaps a Georgian colonial influence, which would have existed at the time, specifically in the brick exterior and the window treatments. It was a plantation home and a design that undoubtedly affected the designs of some of the massive plantation homes that started appearing in the United States result of agricultural boom.

So perhaps nowhere is the influence of the Roman Pantheon filtered through the designs of Palladio. More apparent in Jefferson's designs and in his rotunda at the University of Virginia. Here's an image of the Pantheon. Now like Chiswick House, it relies on a careful and cohesive balance of classical design elements rather than decoration and ornamentation to achieve its balanced and pleasing appearance.

The white temple front and facade feels perfectly balanced with the brick rotunda and drum which support the brilliant white dome. Now the classical design elements that we see here that were originally used to construct temples of worship are then re-purposed and beautifully arranged to create a modern-- for the time-- temple of learning.

So that brings us to the end of this lesson. Let's take a look at our objectives to see how we did. Now that you've seen the lesson, are you able to identify and define today's key terms? Can you describe the stylistic characteristics of neoclassical architecture? Can you identify examples of neoclassical architecture?

And once again, the big idea for today. It's that Neoclassical architecture drew its inspiration from classical architecture, and incorporated the use of classical features like columns, triangular pediments, and domes.

And that is it. Thank you very much for joining me today. I'll see you next time.

Notes on "Neoclassical Architecture"

Key Terms

Planar

Two dimensional quality; having flat characteristics.

Enframed

Enclose, as within a picture frame.

Bas-relief

A type of sculpture where the background is carved or modeled significantly lower than the forms or figures, but is not viewed in the round.

Gilded

A surface that is thinly covered with gold paint, or with gold that is hammered into an extremely thin sheet (called gold leaf).

Civic Responsibility

Expectation of an individual viewed as a member of society to participate in duties, obligations or functions.

Patriotism

An act of commitment, dedication, loyalty and/or defense by a citizen of a country.

Citations

Pantheon; Creative Commons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pantheon_paris.jpg La Madeleine; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Madeleine_Paris.jpg Chiswick House; Public Domain: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chiswick_House_view_from_forecourt.jpg Monticello; Creative Commons: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Monticello_2010-10-29.jpg; Image of Pantheon Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pantheon_rome_2005may.jpg; Image of Interior of Dome Creative Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:P1030409_Paris_VIII_%C3%A9glise_de_la_Madeleine_coupole_rwk.JPG; Image of Maison Carree Public Domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MaisonCarr%C3%A9e.jpeg ; Image of Pediment Detail Public Domain http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pary%C5%BC_magdalena_fasada.JPG; Image of Madeleine Interior Creative Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:La_madeleine_paris_interior.jpg

 

TERMS TO KNOW
  • Planar

    Two dimensional quality; having flat characteristics.

  • Enframed

    Enclosed, as within a picture frame.

  • Bas-relief

    A type of sculpture where the background is carved or modeled significantly lower than the forms or figures, but is not viewed in the round.

  • Gilded

    A surface that is thinly covered with gold paint, or with gold that is hammered into an extremely thin sheet (called gold leaf).

  • Civic Responsibility

    Expectation of an individual viewed as a member of society to participate in duties, obligations or functions.

  • Patriotism

    An act of commitment, dedication, loyalty and/or defense by a citizen of a country.