The Classic Revival

THE cause of the Classic Revival has been much discussed but after all is extremely simple. The Romantic spirit, as expressed in the Baroque and Rococo movements, had done its utmost and could no further go without lapsing into degeneracy. As we have seen, some phases of it had already done so. After practically two centuries of this spirit all Europe was quite ready for something new, and as Classicism was now everywhere "in the air" it was seized upon as a restful and welcome relief from past irregularities, however beautiful in themselves.

There were several causes for the existing renewed interest in the Classic not necessary for our purpose to go into here; but one of them may briefly be mentioned because of its special bearing upon the decoration and furnishing we are to consider. Architects and others interested in the arts (and proportionately there were probably a greater number of titled and private gentlemen concerned in such matters then than now) had discovered that the phase of Classicism that entered into Renaissance culture - commonly called Pal-ladianism - was only a phase and by no means embraced the whole art of Greece and Rome. Renewed investigation at first-hand had thereupon taken place, stimulated by the discoveries at Herculaneum and Pompeii.

The movement was practically simultaneous in England and France and both were equally absorbed. Doubtless also each reacted upon the other, for certain forms of Adam and Louis Seize furniture are very close. The influence of French fashion had long been great in England, and rather strangely, considering the wars between them, there seems to have been in France a very considerable leaning toward English ways and thought which, later, still developed. Mr. Salaman says in his "French Colour Prints": "In those years just before the Revolution Paris fell head and ears in love with London, and English fashions and English customs were all the rage."

The adoption of the style in Italy was synchronous with the development in France and England. Spain, also, for the good of her artistic soul, received the same influence.

In England the outstanding figure was Robert Adam, the greatest of the Adelphi, and his work was closely followed by others. This can best be treated under the section on Architectural Backgrounds.