Charles-Louis Clérisseau (1721-1820), the French architect, archaeologist, and artist, occupies a unique position in the genesis and wide-ranging adoption of neoclassical architecture during the second half of the eighteenth century. His skillful drawings in particular of ancient decorative details, of real and imaginary ruins, and of ancient-style buildings - helped create a style that was to influence such notable figures as Catherine the Great and Thomas Jefferson. Clérisseau's vision of antiquity as the basis for a new architecture is eloquently expressed in the 169 drawings reproduced here.
Thomas McCormick's book is the first comprehensive and balanced study of Clérisseau. It carefully charts his role in the creation of neoclassicism in Italy and its diffusion to France, Germany, England, Russia, and the United States. McCormick describes the influence on his work and development of Clérisseau's relationships to the architects Giovanni Battista Piranesi and Johann Joachim Winckelmann and to his students William Chambers and Robert Adam, among others. It was during his stay in Italy with Adam that Clérisseau made many of the unusually beautiful and sensitive drawings of antique forms that are among the more than 100 now in the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad. McCormick also clarifies Clérisseau's muchdebated role in the design of the state capitol in Richmond, Virginia.
Thomas McCormick is Professor of Art at Wheaton College. An Architectural History Foundation Book.