Stuart, James ‘Athenian’

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Stuart, James ‘Athenian’ (1713–88). British architect of Scots descent, a key figure in the Greek Revival. He travelled to Rome in 1742, probably supporting himself by acting as a guide and producing drawings and paintings. In 1748 he travelled with M. Brettingham, Gavin Hamilton (1723–98), and Revett to Naples, an expedition on which a scheme to visit Athens (then part of the Ottoman Empire, and difficult to visit) was mooted. Stuart and Revett announced proposals for publishing reliable surveys of the antiquities of Athens in 1748 which was taken up by various noblemen and gentry then on the Grand Tour. Finance was raised and the two young men were elected to the Society of Dilettanti in 1751 under the aegis of which they travelled to Greece. After a dangerous so-journ they returned to England in 1755 to prepare their drawings for publication, and the first volume of The Antiquities of Athens Measured and Delineated by James Stuart, F.R.S. and F.S.A., and Nicholas Revett, Painters and Architects, duly appeared in 1762, some time after Le Roy's Les Ruines … (1758), which Stuart criticized for inaccuracy: Le Roy and Stuart continued to castigate each other's efforts for some time thereafter. The Antiquities of Athens was the first reliable source-book of Greek architecture and was at once recognized as important. Stuart bought Revett's interest out, but, being of an indolent disposition, the second volume did not appear until 1789. The third was edited by Willey Reveley and came out in 1795, while the fourth, issued by Josiah Taylor (1761–1834), was published in 1816, and C. R. Cockerell saw to the last volume in 1830.

Stuart designed the garden-buildings at Hagley, Worcs. (1758), and Shug-borough, Staffs. (1760s), that were apparently the first buildings in C18 Europe to have the Greek Orders. He designed a Palladian house with Grecian details at 15 St James's Square, London (1763–6—later altered). He was also responsible for the exquisite interiors (including some of the earliest C18 uses of Pompeian motifs) of Spencer House, Green Park, London (1759–65), Holdernesse (later Londonderry) House, Hertford Street, London (c.1760–5—demolished), the beautiful Chapel at Greenwich Hospital, London (1780–8—assisted by William Newton (1735–90) ), and the Tower of the Winds, Mount Stewart, Co. Down (1782–3). Had he not been so idle, his command of Neo-Classicism, including his knowledge of Greek and Roman decorations, together with his flair for synthesizing various schemes of ornament, could have made him a dangerous rival to the Adam brothers.

Bibliography

AH, xxii (1979), 72–7;
Colvin (1995);
Crook (1972a);
J. Friedman (1993);
E. Harris (1990);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
S&R (1762–1816);
Jane Turner (1996);
D. Watkin (1982);
Wiebenson (1969)