The Birth of Neo-classicism

The classical world of ancient Greece and Rome flourished for over a thousand years, until the 5th century AD. In the middle ages many architectural features, particularly from the Roman Empire, were still standing; artworks such as marble or bronze sculptures were being discovered, and ancient texts, preserved or transcribed in antique libraries, were being identified. This re-kindling of an interest in Europe's classical heritage became known as the renaissance, or re-birth.

In the 18th century another re-birth of classicism took place; neo-classicism, known at the time as the ‘antique manner', signified a return to the style of the ancients. It was seen as ‘true' or ‘correct', as established by renaissance thinkers, architects and designers from the 15th century onwards.

The initial driving spirit of neo-classicism was on the continent, where ideas centred on revolution, citizenship and republicanism were taking hold - all of which seemed rooted in ancient Roman ideals. In Britain, on the cusp of the Age of Enlightment, the movement took a more philosophical form, as exemplified by the establishment of many learned and artistic societies. However, throughout all Europe the result was the same: a move to encompass the style of the antique in all aspects of art and design.





An 18th century view of the relics of classical antiquity

An 18th century view of the relics of classical antiquity