Wednesday 8th May
The Acting College Librarian, Ms Lucy Gwynn, spoke to a joint meeting of the History of Art and Topham Societies about the Topham Collection of drawings and their use by Neo-Classical architects such as Robert Adam and Charles Cameron. This talk was held in the Verey Gallery in School Yard, so examples of the beautiful drawings commissioned by Richard Topham from artists working in Rome were all around us as Ms Gwynn addressed this subject. Ms Gwynn carefully placed these drawings in the context of the English (and Scottish) collectors in Rome, and their wish to bring all Rome home on paper even if they could not afford more than one or two antique sculptures, urns or sarcophagi. She explained how their full impact was felt in the middle years of the 18th century as the Neo-Classical architects began to use them to liberate British architecture and interior design from the strict regulations of the Neo-Palladian style. Adam and his colleagues realised that the Ancient Romans themselves had actually ‘broken the rules’ or at least played with variations on the orthodox treatment of both art and architecture.
Illustrated by many excellent pictures of buildings such as Holkham Hall and Keddleston Hall, as well as drawings in the Topham Collection that were transformed into ceilings and carpets and wall decorations by Adam, Cameron and others, this was a scholarly talk that was also extremely entertaining and lively. As a treat after it ended the audience was invited into College Library itself to see the Topham Collection volumes in their purpose-built caged bookshelves – a memorable end to an excellent meeting.