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Jack Quinan

(b Hartland, CT, June 15, 1773; d Springfield, MA, July 26, 1845).

American architect and writer. Benjamin was one of the most influential architect–writers of the first half of the 19th century in the USA and was trained as a housewright in rural Connecticut between 1787 and 1794. Two of his earliest commissions, the carving of Ionic capitals (1794) for the Oliver Phelps House in Suffield, CT, and the construction of an elliptical staircase (1795) in Charles Bulfinch’s Connecticut State Capitol at Hartford, reveal an exceptional ability with architectural geometry that was to help to determine the direction of his career. Benjamin worked as a housewright in a succession of towns along the Connecticut River during the 1790s. In 1797, dissatisfied with the publications of William Pain, an English popularizer of the Neo-classical style of Robert Adam, Benjamin wrote The Country Builder’s Assistant, a modest handbook for carpenters that was the first such work by an American writer. In ...

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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....

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Jonathan D. Katz

That Harriet Hosmer, Edmonia Lewis and Emma Stebbins are not better known today has less to do with their lesbianism than changing artistic fashions. Neo-Classical sculptors all, they forged a progressive community in Rome in the mid-19th century and became among the foremost sculptors of their day. Given their gender and the fact that Lewis was of Native and African American heritage, this was no small feat, but it testifies to a governing paradox in the writing of any queer history of premodern American art: that queerness was actually less marked, which is to say less segregated, policed and discussed then than it is in our ostensibly more progressive times. Neither exceptional nor shut out, queer artists before the closing decades of the 19th century rarely found sexuality a barrier to either social or commercial success.

But a generation later in America, as “the homosexual” began to emerge as an identity category, sexuality in turn became a troublesome issue. ...