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John A. Fleming

(b Duns, Borders, 1776; d Saint John, NB, Dec 28, 1850).

Canadian cabinetmaker and upholsterer of Scottish birth. He arrived in Saint John, New Brunswick, in 1813 and set up a workshop on Prince William Street where he was active until 1848. Working in the Anglo-American Neo-classical and later Empire styles, Nisbet soon had an operation that employed specialized carvers and turners and supplied other cabinetmakers with piecework. Nisbet’s documented furniture, mainly sofas, sideboards and tables, has certain specific characteristics: spiral- or rope-turned legs, carved fans, pronounced two-ring turnings at the base of legs, ebonized grooves and acanthus-leaf carving (e.g. table, c. 1825; Toronto, Royal Ont. Mus.;). He worked mostly with imported mahogany and occasionally with maple or other native woods. His pieces are always highly finished, with mouldings carrying over to unseen parts of the piece. Almost one hundred labelled pieces have been identified. His sons, Thomas Nisbet jr (1810–45) and Robert Nisbet (b c. 1820), also worked in the business, which continued until ...


Ariane Isler-de Jongh

(b London, Aug 7, 1813; d Montreal, April 6, 1892).

Canadian architect of English birth. Shortly after his arrival in Montreal (1834), he was already practising as an architect and land-surveyor, and his career developed in parallel with the rapid growth of the city. He was also active in business and municipal affairs, and by marrying Eléonore Gauvin, who belonged to a well-known French-Canadian family, he became connected with French-speaking Roman Catholic circles, securing the position of architect to the Catholic diocese of Montreal by 1849. In that year his nephew Henri-Maurice Perrault, who had been apprenticed to him since 1844, became his partner. Ostell’s architectural works show restraint, solidity and an essentially classical character. He popularized the use of ashlar in Montreal, where cut stone had previously been limited to quoins. Some of his designs derive from James Gibbs’s Book of Architecture (1728), but there are many references in his work to buildings by other English architects of the late 17th century and the 18th. He could be as eclectic as his patrons wished, thus designing in Gothic Revival style the Asile de la Providence (...


Oscar P. Fitzgerald

(b Loch Fannich, nr Inverness, 1768; d New York, Aug 16, 1854).

American cabinetmaker of Scottish birth. He immigrated to America with his family about 1784 and settled in Albany, NY, where he served his apprenticeship. About 1792 he moved to New York and opened his own shop; his business prospered, and he moved to a new location on Partition Street (now Fulton Street). As his reputation spread, the most fashionable people in the city, including wealthy New York merchants John Jacob Astor, William Bayard, and De Witt Clinton, sought his services. His shop grew to be one of the largest in the city, and he shipped furniture to customers in New Jersey, Philadelphia, the West Indies, and the south, particularly Charleston, SC, and Savannah where he had his own agent.

Phyfe was an important disseminator of the new English Adam and Regency taste, and his name is synonymous with these neat Neo-classical styles as they developed in New York in the early 19th century. His best furniture is characterized by the use of dark Santo Domingo mahogany, reeding and carved water leaves, lyres (...


John Martin Robinson

(b London, bapt Jan 8, 1745; d Charlotte Town, PEI, Canada, May 24, 1820).

English architect. He started as a bricklayer in Westminster, London, before progressing to architecture. He was among the more idiosyncratic of English Neo-classical architects and one of the pioneers in designing model farm buildings and cottages in the age of agricultural improvement. A fine group of farm buildings by him of c. 1790 survives at Allerton Park, N. Yorks. His plans show a preoccupation with geometrical pattern-making, and his principal executed work, Belle Isle (designed in 1774–5 for Thomas English), Lake Windermere, Cumbria, is a circular house with a segmental dome and portico, similar to a miniature Pantheon. It was widely influential, encouraging Frederick Hervey, 4th Earl of Bristol and Bishop of Derry, to build circular houses at Ballyscullion (begun 1787), Co. Londonderry, and Ickworth (begun 1796), Suffolk, as well as inspiring a full-scale copy in Switzerland, the Villa la Gordanne (1800) at Perroy, Lake Geneva. Like many of his English architect contemporaries, Plaw was interested in novel materials and forms of construction and was among those who experimented with pisé, a French form of mud walling....


Lauretta Dimmick

revised by Rebecca Reynolds

(b Woodstock, VT, July 29, 1805; d Florence, June 27, 1873).

American sculptor. He grew up in Cincinnati, OH, and his career as a sculptor began when he created animated wax figures for a tableau of Dante’s Inferno at the Western Museum in Cincinnati, where he was employed as an ‘inventor, wax-figure maker, and general mechanical contriver’. He had learnt to model clay and make plaster casts from Frederick Eckstein (c. 1775–1852). The portrait busts he created of his friends attracted the attention of the wealthy art patron Nicholas Longworth, who financed a trip for Powers to Washington, DC, in 1834, when he sculpted President Andrew Jackson (marble, modelled 1834–5, carved 1839; New York, Met.). Powers’s strikingly lifelike bust, classicized only by the drapery, had great appeal and resulted in other Washington luminaries agreeing to sit for him, including John Marshall (marble, modelled 1835, carved 1838–9; Washington, DC, US Capitol), Martin van Buren (marble, modelled 1836, carved 1862; New York, NY Hist. Soc.), and ...


Denys Peter Myers

(b Marshfield, MA, Aug 17, 1800; d Cincinnati, OH, April 13, 1869).

American architect. He is remembered primarily for having designed some of the earliest modern hotels in America, although he designed noteworthy public and private structures of many types. Almost all have been demolished during subsequent urban development.

The Rogers family had settled in south-eastern Massachusetts by the 1640s and were long engaged in shipbuilding and farming. In 1817 Isaiah was apprenticed to a Boston housewright, Jesse Shaw. After a stay in Mobile, AL, where in 1822 he won a competition to design a theatre, Rogers returned to Boston and worked in Solomon Willard’s office from 1822 to 1825, when Willard left to supervise his granite quarrying business in Quincy, MA. Rogers’s major Greek Revival works made extensive use of massive granite monoliths.

Rogers’s successful design for the Tremont Theatre (1827; destr. 1852), Boston, was termed ‘the most perfect …architecture in Boston …uncommonly chaste and dignified’ by H. R. Cleveland jr in the ...


Pamela H. Simpson

Term referring to the romantic character underlying the use of Roman and Greek forms in the art and architecture of the late 18th century and early 19th. First used by Sigfried Giedion in 1922 and later, in an important essay by Fiske Kimball in 1944, the term is most often applied to architecture. Henry-Russell Hitchcock used it extensively as a stylistic term that defined early Neo-classicism in his volume on 19th- and 20th-century architecture. But it also can be applied to painting, sculpture, and the decorative arts. The term recognizes the fundamental idea that the past evokes emotional associations. Even the seemingly rational and austere forms of Roman and Greek art could evoke sentiment.

One concept that helps explain Romantic Classicism is ‘associationism’, a principle that underlay much of the use of historical revival styles in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. When contemplating a building whose forms evoked a bygone era, the viewer made certain connections between the use of the style in the past and its appearance in the present. Thus when Thomas Jefferson chose the Roman temple, the Maison Carrée in Nîmes, as a model for the Virginia State House (...


Willard B. Robinson

(b Lexington, KY, Nov 15, 1802; d Louisville, KY, June 19, 1880).

American architect. After attending the Lancastrian Academy in Lexington, KY, he learnt about procedures of construction from his father who was a builder. He also gained an appreciation for architectural refinement from books in his father’s library, which included at least one volume of Asher Benjamin’s works. In 1823 he went to Philadelphia to study architecture under William Strickland, a leading proponent of the Greek Revival; Strickland was then working on the Second Bank of the United States (1818–24), a building that took the Athenian Parthenon as its model.

After spending about a year in Philadelphia, Shryock returned to Lexington, where he became one of the most notable designers in the Greek Revival style. His best buildings were generally distinguished by rational planning, handsome proportions and archaeologically accurate detail. In 1826 he won the competition for the design of the third State House (1827–30) of Kentucky in Frankfort. This monumental work with a hexastyle portico was based, according to Shryock, on the Temple of Athena Polias at Priene in Ionia. In plan it had a central entrance hall, which allowed access to a rotunda containing a stairway leading to the House of Representatives and Senate Chamber on the first floor. Equally impressive are Morrison College (...


Nancy Halverson Schless

(b Philadelphia, PA, 1788; d Nashville, TN, April 6, 1854).

American architect, engineer and painter. Among the first generation of native-born architects, he was an influential designer in the Greek Revival style. Over a period of almost 50 years he executed more than 70 commissions, many of them in Philadelphia. His last major building was the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville, built from 1845.

Through his father, a master carpenter who had worked on Latrobe’s Bank of Pennsylvania, Strickland was apprenticed to Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1803, remaining in his office for about four years. During his apprenticeship he studied Latrobe’s folios of Greek antiquities, including James Stuart’s and Nicholas Revett’s Antiquities of Athens, 4 vols (1762–1816), as well as publications by the Society of Dilettanti. By 1807 he was in New York with his father, working as a painter of stage scenery. The following year he returned to Philadelphia, where he received his first major commission: a design for the city’s Masonic Hall (...


C. M. Harris

(b Tortola, British Virgin Islands, May 20, 1759; d Washington, DC, March 28, 1828).

American architect, Naturalist and civil servant of British birth. Born on a West Indian sugar plantation, to which he became an heir on the death of his father in 1760, he spent his youth among his English Quaker relatives in Lancaster. He was apprenticed to a ‘practical physician’ and apothecary in Ulverston, Lancs (now Cumbria), then studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh (1781–3), receiving the MD degree from the University of Aberdeen in 1784. He continued his medical studies and pursued his other interests of drawing and painting in London and Paris, and travelled on the continent and in Scotland, before returning to Tortola in May 1785. In the autumn of the following year he emigrated to the USA.

Thornton practised medicine briefly in Philadelphia but found the fees low and the nature of physicians’ work there ‘laborious’ and ‘disgusting’. His scientific accomplishments, however, gained him election to the American Philosophical Society, and his visionary turn of mind attracted him to causes as varied as the anti-slavery campaign and John Fitch’s experimental steamboats, to which he contributed designs as well as capital. His inclination for design led him to enter the competition for the hall of the Library Company of Philadelphia, and his designs were accepted with slight alterations in ...


Jack Quinan

(b Thompson, CT, Oct 3, 1784; d New Haven, CT, June 13, 1844).

American architect and writer. He was born in the years when architecture was just beginning to become a profession in America. His father, a gentleman farmer in north-east Connecticut, died in 1792. His mother soon remarried, and Town was sent to live with an uncle in Cambridge, MA. He later recalled being fascinated at the age of eight by the engraved diagrams in The Young Man’s Best Companion. The passion for books never left him.

The nature of Town’s schooling and training is not known. His biographer, Roger Hale Newton, suggested that he attended Asher Benjamin’s architectural school in Boston between 1804 and 1810, but there is no proof that such a school ever existed. He was probably apprenticed as a housewright. In 1810 Town, Solomon Willard and several housewrights founded the Boston Architectural Library. By 1813 Town had moved to New Haven, CT, where he seems to have functioned as superintendent of ...


Kenneth C. Lindsay

(b Kingston, NY, Oct 15, 1775; d Kingston, Sept 24, 1852).

American painter. The grandson of Pieter Vanderlyn (1687–1778), a portrait painter active in the Hudson River Valley, he manifested an early talent for penmanship and drawing. During his late youth he moved to New York, where he worked in a frame shop and studied in Archibald Robertson’s drawing academy. His copy of a portrait by Gilbert Stuart brought him to the attention of that artist, with whom he then worked in Philadelphia.

Under the patronage of the politician Aaron Burr (1756–1836), Vanderlyn went to France in 1796, becoming the first American painter to study in Paris. He gained a reliable Neo-classical technique and aspirations after ‘the Grand Manner’ from his teacher François-André Vincent. Exhibits at the Paris Salons over several years—beginning with the notable Self-portrait of 1800 (New York, Met.)—reflected his growing ambitions. In 1804 he produced a history painting with an American subject, the Murder of Jane McCrea...


Robert B. Ennis

(b Philadelphia, PA, Sept 4, 1804; d Philadelphia, Oct 30, 1887).

American architect. In 1818 he was apprenticed as a bricklayer to his father, the builder Joseph Walter (1782–1855), who was contracted that year to build William Strickland’s Second Bank of the United States (1819–24) in Philadelphia, one of the earliest examples of Greek Revival architecture in the USA. Although no formal architectural curriculum had been established at this time, Walter’s professional education followed a pattern that later became standard practice. During a six-year apprenticeship he acquainted himself with the operations of Strickland’s office and learnt Euclidian geometry. After becoming a master mason in 1824, he joined his father’s business, took membership in the Bricklayers’ Company and enrolled in the ‘Drawing School’ at the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, under the direction of John Haviland. After four years studying mathematics, physics, draughtsmanship and other subjects related to building, as well as landscape painting in watercolour, he entered Strickland’s office as a draughtsman in ...


W. McKenzie Woodward

(b Tiverton, RI, Aug 5, 1783; d Providence, Nov 16, 1860).

American architect. Born into a family of builders, he was the first individual in Rhode Island to make the transition from architect–builder to architect. His move in 1800 to Bristol, RI, where he worked as a carpenter with his brothers, was timely: under the mercantile leadership of the De Wolf family, Bristol experienced an economic boom based on shipping and the illegal slave trade. Warren designed four large, elaborate houses for that family between 1808 and 1840; the two early ones, Hey Bonnie Hall (1808; destr.) and Linden Place (1810), gave the talented young designer an early opportunity to deal with ambitious commissions for sophisticated patrons.

By 1827, after a few years in Charleston, SC, Warren was in Providence, RI, where he was associated with Tallman & Bucklin. Warren and James C. Bucklin introduced the Greek Revival to Rhode Island with their monumental Providence Arcade (1828...


Marianne Uggla


(b Stockholm, Feb 19, 1751; d Chester, DE, Oct 5, 1811).

Swedish painter, active also in France, Spain and the USA. He was trained in sculpture and painting at the Stockholm Academy and was a student of Joseph-Marie Vien in Paris (1772–5) and Rome (1775–9). In 1781 he settled in Paris, painting Ariadne on the Shore of Naxos (1783; Stockholm, Nmus.), a meticulously executed Neo-classical work. He became a member of the French Academy in 1784 and First Painter to Gustavus III of Sweden. The latter commissioned him in 1784 to paint the massive Marie Antoinette and her two Children Walking in the Trianon Gardens (Stockholm, Nmus.). Wertmüller’s most interesting work, Danaë and the Shower of Gold (1787; Stockholm, Nmus.), a masterpiece of mythological portrayal, is the foremost example of Swedish Neo-classical painting.

A lack of portrait commissions in Paris prompted Wertmüller in 1788 to go and work for wealthy merchants in Bordeaux, Madrid and Cadiz. His career as a portrait painter proceeded successfully; his portraits display an unsentimental and cool, smooth style. In ...


Robert C. Alberts

(b Springfield [now Swarthmore], PA, Oct 10, 1738; d London, March 11, 1820).

American painter and draughtsman, active in England ( see fig. ). He was the first American artist to achieve an international reputation and to influence artistic trends in Europe. He taught three generations of his aspiring countrymen. His son Raphael Lamar West (1769–1850) was a history painter.

He was one of ten children of a rural innkeeper whose Quaker family had moved to Colonial America in 1699 from Long Crendon, Bucks. In romantic legends perpetuated by the artist himself, he is pictured as an untutored Wunderkind. However, it has become clear that West received considerable support from talented and generous benefactors. West’s earliest known portraits, Robert Morris and Jane Morris...