Neoclassicism and the Arts in Europe and America, 1740–1840





This seminar studies the revived interest in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome among Western artists, patrons, and designers in the 18th and early 19th centuries. It asks how new information about the classical world was produced and diffused; how ancient designs were adapted for modern needs; and how divergent visions of antiquity intersected with cultural, intellectual, and political views. Issues include the role of the Grand Tour and the rise of museums as sites of encounter with antiquity; the role of classical ideals in colonial and antebellum America; the spread of “Egyptomania” after Napoléon’s African campaign; the intersection of neoclassicism with industrial production; its spread through pattern books, collectibles, and emigrant craftsmen and designers; and the social significance of classicizing trends in urbanism, gardening, household furnishing, and personal adornment. Key figures include Piranesi, Winckelmann, Mengs, Stuart, Adam, Soane, Wedgwood, Flaxman, Hope, Ledoux, Canova, Schinkel, David, Percier and Fontaine, Lannuier, Bulfinch, Jefferson, and Latrobe. Throughout, the course aims to trace how evolving classical ideals in visual and material culture embodied aesthetic and social values. 3 credits.