George Richardson - Encyclopedia

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GEORGE RICHARDSON, English 18th-century architect and designer. The dates of birth and death of this distinguished contemporary and rival of the brothers Adam are not ascertained, but he is conjectured to have been born about 1736 and to have died in 1817. Richardson spent three years - from 1760 to 1763 - travelling in Dalmatia and Istria, in the south of France and in Italy. During that period he imbibed the inspiration of a lifetime, and acquired the material for its practical application. He soon began to show remarkable skill in adapting classical ideals to the uses of his time, and in 1765 he won a premium offered by the Society of Arts for a design of a street in the classical manner. Richardson's work is so closely allied to that of the brothers Adam that it is often difficult to distinguish between them, and if it possessed less freedom and variety, and bore to a smaller extent the impress of an original mind, it was in the main exceedingly admirable and satisfying. Richardson was an especially successful designer of ceilings and chimneypieces. He published in 1776 a Book of Ceilings in the Style of the Antique Grotesque. Many of its drawings are of exquisite taste. Nor is his fireplace work, as represented by his Collection of Chimney pieces Ornamented in the Style of the Etruscan, Greek and Roman Architecture (1781), less attractive. Richardson's chimneypieces are still to be found in considerable numbers in town and country houses. They are mostly of marble, but examples in wood are not uncommon. He made extensive use of coloured marbles, and the effect is constantly that of the sumptuous balancing the austere. Like the Adams, Richardson often worked with composition enrichments, and his New Designs in Architecture (1792) contains many drawings of interior friezes and columns to be executed either in this medium or painted to suit the wall hangings. His versatility was considerable, as the titles of his works, a dozen in number, suggest. For many years he exhibited at the Royal Academy as well as in the Galleries of the Society of Arts. Why such a man should have fallen into penury in his old age we have no means of ascertaining, but we know that his necessities were relieved by Nollekens.

His principal works in addition to those already mentioned were, in chronological order Aedes Pembrochianae (1774); Iconology (2 vols.), with plates by Bartolozzi and other engravers (1778-1779); New Designs in Architecture (1792); Original Designs for Country Seats or Villas (1795); The New Vitruvius Britannicus, a sequel to Colin Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus, 2 vols. (1802); Ornaments in the Grecian, Roman and Etruscan Tastes (1816). He also published volumes dealing with vases and tripods, antique friezes and other architectural and decorative details.

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