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Treading in the Path of Others: Robert Adam and the Grand Tour at Kedleston Hall

Part 2 Dissertation 2006
Thomas Corrie
University of Sheffield | UK
The Grand Tour heralded an upsurge of interest in the art and architecture of the continent and the eighteenth century man of taste was encouraged to absorb himself in foreign travel to learn about continental cultures, past and present. Such travel was intended, in the words of Joshua Reynolds, to “trace back the art to its fountain-head; to that source from whence they drew their principal excellencies, the monuments of pure antiquity.” This interest was naturally reflected in the architecture of the time, principally in the great English country houses which were intended to stand as monuments to their owners’ virtuosity. Kedleston Hall in Derbyshire is one such house, a classical “Temple to the Arts” set in a picturesque landscape park.

Almost all the architectural sources for Kedleston can be traced back to antiquity but the method and directness of their influence varies considerably, further complicated by its lengthy genesis, involving five different architects – Matthew Brettingham the Elder, James Paine, James “Athenian” Stuart, Robert Adam, and George Richardson – over a period of nearly forty years. This dissertation examines the influence of the Grand Tour, principally that of Robert Adam, on the design and development of Kedleston. The dissertation is structured as a journey along the central axis of the corps de logis, starting in the park and proceeding through the North Front into the two principal apartments, the Marble Hall and the circular Saloon, and outside into the pleasure ground to view the South Front. Each section traces the influences on that particular part of Kedleston and its development.

The aim is to place this great house in the context of the Grand Tour and to show to what extent the design is directly, and indirectly, predicated on the experience of travel and whether Adam’s claim, as expounded in the preface to The Works, that he had “not trod in the path of others, nor derived aid from their labours” could be said to be true at Kedleston.

Thomas Corrie

This dissertation was an excellent piece of work which retraced the experience of Robert Adam's Grand Tour. Thomas used primary source material from Britain, Italy and Croatia to refresh what might appear to be a familiar subject.

Through an analysis of Adam's work at Kedleston, the author discusses how the classic image of the English country house related to its classical forebears through the often hazy interpretation of the Grand Tourist.

The dissertation is a thorough and scholarly submission which extends the scope of research through the reconstruction of the architect's journey in search of inspiration.

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