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JAMES 'ATHENIAN' STUART EXHIBITION

Country Houses & Garden Buildings

Country Houses

Stuart's work as an architect grew out of his reputation as a painter, connoisseur and authority on Greece. Wealthy patrons employed him for his skill as a designer but also for his judgement in matters of taste.

He only built one complete country house, Belvedere in Kent. Instead, most of his work outside London consisted of alterations to existing houses and villas. Compact buildings near large towns, villas were used by their fashion-conscious owners for hospitality and display. For these projects, Stuart drew on his first-hand experience of Greek and Roman remains to design some of the earliest Neo-classical interiors in Britain.

For many of these commissions, Stuart designed furniture and metalware. These are eclectic in design. Fusing Baroque forms with elements taken from early French Neo-classicism, they also include direct copies of Greek and Roman ornament and furniture types.

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Garden Buildings

More than a third of Stuart's architectural commissions were for garden buildings. His career coincided with the development of the Picturesque in garden design, a style inspired by the landscape paintings of French artists such as Claude Lorrain and Nicholas Poussin. The Picturesque was an aesthetic to which prospects and vistas were vital. Buildings and follies provided focal points within the design, and views to and from them were carefully composed.

For structures derived from classical antiquity, Stuart provided a stamp of authenticity unavailable from other architects as he had visited Greece in person. Many of Stuart's garden buildings were copies of structures he had measured in Athens, while others display his versatility and eclecticism, incorporating sources outside the limits of the Greek style.

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