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JAMES 'ATHENIAN' STUART EXHIBITION

Later Years & Legacy

Portrait Medallion of James Stuart, Wedgwood and Bentley, after 1777. The Wedgwood Museum Trust, Barlaston, Staffordshire

Portrait Medallion of James Stuart, Wedgwood and Bentley, after 1777. The Wedgwood Museum Trust, Barlaston, Staffordshire (click image for larger version)

From the late 1760s complaints began to surface about Stuart's increasingly chaotic business practices, which were possibly due to his chronic gout and deteriorating health. The problem worsened, and by the early 1780s even his friends noted that he spent his afternoons drinking and playing skittles rather than attending to business. His critics, meanwhile, accused him of 'Epicurianism' - a reference to his recent marriage to a young maidservant as well as to his alcoholism.

However, Stuart continued to work intermittently and also returned to the Antiquities of Athens. This was unfinished at the time of his death in 1788 and the final volume only appeared in 1816, when the Greek Revival was beginning to dominate British architecture. Stuart's London buildings had played a role in the propagation of Neo-classical taste, but it was the Antiquities of Athens that had the greatest impact. As a sourcebook it influenced architects, sculptors and designers in Europe and America for the next two centuries.