Neoclassicism in Europe and America, 1750-1830

From the mid-eighteenth through the early nineteenth century, much European art, architecture, and design was animated by aesthetic principles and formal models derived from the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece, Etruria, and Rome. Typically seen in opposition to “Baroque,” “Rococo,” or “Romantic” modes, this “new classicism” is often interpreted as the visual equivalent of the Enlightenment and a harbinger of modernity. This seminar tests these interpretations by focusing on Neoclassicism’s impact on visual and material culture. Issues include the role of travel in establishing and diffusing Neoclassical tastes; the rise of archeology and the formation of museums in providing access to ancient objects; the spread of antique-inspired fashions via pattern books, collectibles, and itinerant craftsmen and designers; the intersection of Neoclassical styles with craft practices and industrial production; the adoption of classicism by both ruling parties and by opposition movements; the rise of “Egyptomania” after Napoleon’s African campaign; and the spread of Neoclassicism to European colonies and the young United States. Participants take the lead in investigating Neoclassicism’s varied manifestations in urbanism, architecture, household furnishing, and personal adornment, with special focus on classically-inspired furniture, silver, ceramics, textiles, and clothing. Throughout, the course’s aim is to trace how the strategic evocation of the ancient world within the sphere of daily life embodied changing cultural, intellectual, and political values. 3 credits. Based on final project, can satisfy the pre-1800 requirement.