George III acted as monarch between 1760 – 1820, and was the first Hanoverian king to speak English. During his reign British society and politics underwent vast changes that began to shape a new direction for upcoming years. Crucially, Ireland merged with the rest of Britain after the Act of Union, and we had the beginnings of the united Kingdom. Although Britain was a leading country in Europe at the time, there were disappointments and problems, such as the loss of American colonies after the American War of independence in 1775. These American colonies considered themselves a part of Europe and reproduced European homes ands style of the past. They replied on Britain for trade, but it was after the taxation of these colonies to help pay for the French and Indian wars that they declared independent.
During the reign of George III there were the beginnings of the industrial Revolution, mainly the beginning of the Factory Age with the first cotton mill created in Derbyshire. Up until this moment in time, British industry had been fairly small and unsophisticated, but with continuing improvements in factory production, coal mining and transport growth this all changed. Now we had a society that was growing and developing rapidly, for example transport made huge strides with the improvements of roads, as a drive from London to Edinburgh that would have previously taken 2 weeks, now only took 2 days.
Neoclassical style emerged form a reaction against the overindulgence and lavish style of Palladian and Baroque. Instead Neoclassicism referred back to classical architecture and styles, heavily influences by ancient Greece and Rome, in particular the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii. Many affluent members of society returned from travels across Europe and the grand tour with inspiration and appreciation of foreign cultural influences. These were newly discovered influences at the time, and in particular the roman and Greek mythologies sparked interest with British society. There was a revival or orderly, symmetrical and rationale architecture, it was embraced by many and there was a sense of balance and consistency as both grand stately homes and modest townhouses were created in this style. In politics, the conservatives were in power and they too prefer this style, a movement away form decorative and ornate neo palladium, instead there was a rational, logical and stricter sense of style that could fit with their ideals. An appreciation of neoclassic was widespread across Europe and its influences were seen in abundance through art, literature, philosophy, musical and archaeology.
A significant piece of architecture and interior design within the Neoclassical design movement, this building was a creation of iconic designer Robert Adam. He rebuilt it in 1761 and redefined the style to be quintessentially neoclassical, with its columns and rigid structure on the outside, whilst inside there was a focus on oval motifs with classical themes, elaborate wall and ceiling panels and statues places within niches. Adam had a distinctive restrained style that was elegant and sophisticated. A great example of his neoclassical influence is shown in the Etruscan Room in which the wall and fireplace showcase key features that feel both Greek and Roman in nature. Adam had painted classical figures and deigns and then got artist Pietro Maria Borgnis to copy this onto paper and then onto a canvas which was transferred onto the ceilings and walls within this room. The effect is opulent yet elegant and muted in tone. Influences from ancient and renascence sources, this building is a fantastic example of neoclassic in Britain. Robert Adam became a important designer within this movement lending his style to many grand buildings such as Kenwood House, Saltran House and Kedleston Hall.
In the late 1700s there were three main furniture designer that were considered to be the most iconic and significant, this included Thomas Chippendale, George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton. Hepplewhite was well known for creating light, elegant and small pieces. The author of the book “The Cabinet Maker and Upholstery Guide’, he designed items with curvilinear shapes, elaborate carvings, straight legs and contrasting veneers and inlays. These were considered ‘city’ furniture pieces, far more sophisticated than items from previous eras with new techniques such as mixing wood types (mahogany, satinwood and maple). One of his more famous pieces is the shield back chair.
Published four volumes of ‘Cabinet-Maker and upholsters Drawing Book’, another key publication during of its time. Sheraton designed ne classical pieces with straight legs and square backs that were smaller in size yet very elegant. There complex designs in the shape of tables with pull out compartments and storage and dressing tables with swinging mirrors.