Gothic revival

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Gothic Revival. Conscious movement that began in England to revive Gothic forms, mostly in the second half of C18 and throughout C19. It was, arguably, the most influential artistic movement ever to spring from England, and from it grew the Domestic Revival, the Arts-and-Crafts and Aesthetic movements, and many other developments in art and architecture. Hawksmoor's All Souls' College, Oxford (1716–35) and western towers at Westminster Abbey (1734), were among the earliest Georgian examples, followed by Gibbs's Gothick Temple, Stowe, Bucks. (1741–4), Sanderson Miller's work (1740s), and Keene's designs (1760s). Miller and Keene both advised Sir Roger Newdigate, Bt. (1719–1806), about the Gothic work at Arbury Hall, Warwicks. (c.1750–2), which, with Horace Walpole's (1717–97) Strawberry Hill, Twickenham (c.1760–76), made the style fashionable, and it was adopted in Germany, France, Italy, Russia, America, and elsewhere. While many ‘Gothic’ churches were built in the early C19, they were often unconvincing in archaeological terms, and do not resemble medieval buildings: the Friedrich Werdersche Kirche, Berlin (1821–31), by Schinkel, is one example, and in England there were many simple Georgian Commissioners' churches with rudimentary Perpendicular or First Pointed windows that only purported to be Gothic. What might be called the archaeological phase of the Gothic Revival in which real medieval buildings provided the precedents for design began in England with Bloxam Rickman and Pugin, and was triggered partly by Ecclesiology and partly by the popular success of the Palace of Westminster by Barry and Pugin (from 1836). From that time a growing body of scholarship informed the Gothic Revival, and the ambitious programme of Victorian church-building was served by architects thoroughly immersed in the style. The building industry, manufacturers, and craftsmen had to be trained too, for all manner of artefacts, carvings, stained-glass, and the like had to be provided. In France the main protagonist of the Revival was Viollet-le-Duc, whose restoration of Sainte Chapelle, Paris (1840–9— with Duban and Lassus), had such an influence on Pugin. Indeed, the very considerable C19 programme of restoration of medieval buildings throughout Europe (especially in the UK, France, and Germany), prompted partly by national pride and partly by the religious revival after the Enlightenment experiment, had a powerful impact, encouraging scholarship, archaeological investigations, accurate surveys of extant buildings, and the production of illustrated books. Experience gained in restoration increased confidence in the use of the style for modern buildings. Very soon the Revival was embraced throughout Europe and America. The C19 main Gothic Revival in Britain began with a resurrection of Perpendicular; turned to Second Pointed (English first, then Continental) in the 1840s, largely due to the arguments of Pugin and the Ecclesiologists who perceived C14 Gothic as fully developed with advantages over both the ‘undeveloped’ lancet style and the ‘decadent’ Perpendicular; then embraced Continental Gothic, especially that of Italy, where the possibility of structural polychromy had attracted many commentators, the most effective of whom were Ruskin and Street. The ‘High Victorian’ Gothic Revival of the 1850s and early 1860s was thus often coloured, incorporating polished granites, marbles, many-coloured brick- and tile-work, becoming more free in expression and less archaeologically derivative in the process. As with Neo-Classicism's search for the primitive early forms, Gothic Revivalists also sought a more robust and ‘primitive’ Gothic, and so turned to the powerful First Pointed Burgundian precedents of C13, giving birth to the muscular Gothic of Brooks, Street, and Pearson. George Gilbert Scott drew on eclectic elements of Continental Gothic for his Midland Grand Hotel, St Pancras, London (1868–74), Waterhouse also paraphrased European precedents for Manchester Town Hall (1868–76), and there were many other examples. Towards the end of the British and American Revivals Bodley and other architects once more used Second Pointed sources, and Perpendicular was also restored to favour, as in Sedding's Holy Trinity, Sloane Street, London (1888–90). Other major buildings of the Revival include Gau's and Ballu's Ste-Clotilde, Paris (1846–57), von Schmidt's Rathaus (Town Hall), Vienna (1872–83), Steindl's Hungarian Parliament Building, Budapest (1883–1902), Giles Gilbert Scott's Liverpool Anglican Cathedral (from 1902), and Cram's Cathedral of St John the Divine, NYC (begun 1911).


M. Aldrich (1994);
W. Andrews (1975);
Baur (1981);
Blau (1982);
Bloxam (1882);
C. Brooks (1999);
K. Clark (1974);
B. Clarke (1958, 1969);
J. Curl (2002b);
Dinsmoor & and Muthesius (1985);
Eastlake (1970);
Frankl (1960, 2000);
Germann (1972);
Hersey (1972);
M. Lewis (1993, 2002);
Macaulay (1975);
M. McCarthy (1987)

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Gothic Revival. There is some truth in the suggestion that Gothic architecture in Britain never entirely died out, especially in the hands of local craftsmen in remote, rural areas. Certainly, even during the 17th and early 18th cents., a period dominated by classicism, the style had major patrons such as John Cosin, bishop of Durham between 1660 and 1672; and both Wren and Hawksmoor sometimes adopted it, although almost invariably for works intended to blend in with existing structures, as with the latter architect's additions to All Souls College, Oxford, begun 1715.

Thus, it is not until the mid-18th cent. that we have the first really self-conscious revival of Gothic, when, for example, Horace Walpole (1717–97) began to enlarge his villa, Strawberry Hill, Twickenham (near London), during the 1750s, and the amateur architect Sanderson Miller (1717–80) remodelled Lacock abbey (Wilts.) (1754–5). Arbury Hall (War.) (altered from about 1750 by Henry Keene) is another early example of the ‘Gothic’ taste. This architecture often seems whimsical, an intellectually fashionable alternative to Palladianism, although ‘Gothick’ buildings often retained Palladian proportions and soon many leading architects, such as James Wyatt (1748–1817), designed in both styles.

‘Gothic’ was at first an essentially literary movement, inspired by the new interest in medieval and Elizabethan poetry and the increasingly antiquarian spirit of the time. Later in the century, the Gothic Revival, always more English than British, became associated with Romantic ideas of the Sublime and Picturesque. For the eccentric millionaire William Beckford, Wyatt built the gigantic, rambling Fonthill abbey (Wilts.), from 1796 (now demolished). The Picturesque movement encouraged this asymmetry in architecture and its greater integration with landscape. Gothic was often combined with castellated forms and merged into the ‘Tudor-Gothic’ of the early 19th cent.

By this time, however, the fanatical medievalist Augustus Pugin (1812–52) gave the revival a new moral and stylistic authority through his writings and designs. A Roman catholic, he argued that Gothic was truthful and Christian: a comprehensive English national style. His ideas coincided with the upsurge of church building after the catholic emancipation act of 1829 and influenced many Anglicans associated with the Oxford movement. John Ruskin (1819–1900) was also a great champion of the Gothic Revival, and the ‘high Victorian’ period (c.1850–80) saw its widespread adoption for large public buildings and monuments in the growing cities and towns. Examples include Manchester town hall (by Alfred Waterhouse, 1869–77) and, in London, the Midland hotel, St Pancras station (by G. G. Scott, 1865–71), the Law Courts, Strand (by G. E. Street, 1874–82), and the Albert Memorial (again by Scott, begun 1863). In church architecture, the revival continued until at least the early 20th cent.

T. E. Faulkner

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Gothic revival, term designating a return to the building styles of the Middle Ages. Although the Gothic revival was practiced throughout Europe, it attained its greatest importance in the United States and England. The early works were designed in a fanciful late rococo manner, exemplified by Horace Walpole's remodeled "gothick" house, Strawberry Hill (1770). By 1830, however, architects turned to more archaeological methods. Thus, just as the classical revivalists had done, they began to copy the original examples more literally. A. W. N. Pugin wrote two of the basic texts of the Gothic revival. In Contrasts (1836) he put forth the idea that the Middle Ages, in its way of life and art, was superior to his own time and ought to be imitated. He amplified his ideas in The True Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture (1841), propounding that not only must Gothic detail be authentic but that the contemporary architect should achieve the structural clarity and high level of craftsmanship that were found in the Middle Ages by using the methods of medieval builders. John Ruskin elaborated on these ideas in The Stones of Venice. Followers of Ruskin and Pugin soon came into conflict with proponents of the classic revival, and the resulting conflict has often been called a battle of the two styles. The Church of England supported the Gothic movement, however, and provided for the restoration of a great number of medieval religious buildings. Sir George Gilbert Scott was the noted English restorer of the day, while in France, Viollet-le-Duc led the exponents of the Gothic revival there. Many architects found it advantageous to work in both styles, as did Sir Charles Barry, a leading classicist. Working with A. W. N. Pugin, he won a competition in 1840 with Gothic designs for the houses of parliament. In the United States the picturesque aspect of the style took precedence over the doctrinaire approach of Pugin. The first works of note in the Gothic style appeared in the 1830s in buildings designed by A. J. Davis and Richard Upjohn. The younger James Renwick became important in the 1840s and was especially renowned for his Grace Church and St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, both prime examples of the Gothic revival in the United States. The Gothic movement foundered because of the impossibility of reproducing medieval buildings when there was no longer a medieval economy or technology. Only superficial effects of the style lingered in some eclectic works of the 19th and 20th cent. However, the ideals of earlier theoreticians, the clear expression of structure and materials have influenced modern architecture.

See K. Clark, Gothic Revival (3d ed. 1963); P. B. Stanton, The Gothic Revival and American Church Architecture (1968); C. L. Eastlake, History of the Gothic Revival (rev. ed. 1972).