Past Exhibitions

In Pursuit of Antiquity:  Drawings from the Giants of British Neo-Classicism

An exhibition in the Soane Gallery from 1 February 2008 - 1 June 2008

The exhibition illustrates the ambition of leading British architects of the late 18th century who strove to create new architecture in the Classical tradition that could compete - in terms of public works, private houses, mausolea, interior detail and even furnishings - with the glories of the Ancient World.

Illustrating this central theme, some of the finest drawings and designs by Sir John Soane himself, Robert Adam, George Dance the Younger, Sir William Chambers and James Wyatt will be shown - some for the first time.

The selection from the Museum's unrivalled collection will include an astonishingly detailed cutaway drawing of Holy Trinity Marylebone, one of Soane's three neo - classical churches. Such designs are reminder of the passionate belief held by Soane and his architectural contemporaries that the quality of a society could be judged by its public buildings. London was, then, the centre of the largest empire since Rome, and the exhibition will include Soane's design for two huge triumphal arches (celebrating Waterloo and Trafalgar) at each end of Downing Street. The deliberate association of ancient and modern empires is clear.

Alongside designs for monumental public architecture, In Pursuit of Antiquity will also include more intimate details, such as chimney pieces and domestic furniture, whose Egyptian, Grecian and Roman nuances reflect aspirations for the birth of a new golden age.

In Pursuit of Antiquity will focus on Ancient Rome and its great monuments as a source of inspiration to the architectural students of the 18th and 19th centuries who exhaustively measured, studied, surveyed and above all, drew these structures as part of their education. The exhibition will also explore the idea of an architectural drawing - from sketch to final presentation. Drawings by French and Italian artists such as Percier, Clerisseau and the great Piranesi, all represented in Soane's collection, will illustrate the links between these architects and British architects.