Contested Classicism: The English Baroque, Palladianism, and the Commodification of Architectural Style, 1715-1754

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Spivey, Dylan, History of Art and Architecture - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Fordham, Douglas, University of Virginia

Bounded by the careers and publications of rival architects Colen Campbell (1676-1729) and James Gibbs (1682-1754), “Contested Classicism: The English Baroque, Palladianism, and the Commodification of Architectural Style, 1715-1754,” questions how style was understood, articulated, and ultimately commercialized in early eighteenth-century England. Using a series of case studies which unites period discourse with concurrent architectural practice, this dissertation argues that the nascent concept of style was central to the architecture of early eighteenth-century Britain. And, at the intersection of theory and practice lay the print and illustrated book. At once a professionalizing tool, an advertisement of architectural skill, and the means by which architectural style became a commodity in an ever-expanding consumer society, the print enabled architects such as Campbell and Gibbs to recalibrate their relationship with potential patrons and to market their work directly to a broadening consumer base. Selling style, or at least a superior knowledge of it, would become central to anyone professing to be an architect in eighteenth-century England, a reality evidenced by the careers of Campbell and Gibbs.

Borne out both in the pages of the architectural book and in brick and mortar, the taste debates of the eighteenth century demonstrate how style was transformed into a vital commodity in the marketplace for ideas and country houses. In an age of tremendous academic specialization, this dissertation deploys the methods of both architectural history (with careful attention to plans, siting, materials, and careful inspection of existing structures) alongside art history (and its emphasis on the power and limits of representation, the importance of book illustration, and the particular status of cultural commodities). In the process, this dissertation offers a new understanding of the role of style in early eighteenth-century Britain, reappraises the Palladian powerhouse, implicates the print and architectural book in a commodification of architectural style, extends the chronology of luxury consumption to the early decades of the eighteenth-century, and argues that competing notions of style were, at least in part, fueled by the dynamic eighteenth-century market for luxury goods.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Eighteenth-Century Architecture, James Gibbs, Colen Campbell, Palladianism, English Baroque, Print, Architectural Book, Architectural Style, Commodification, English Country House
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