Brought up in Sweden by Scottish parents, trained in France, a regular visitor to China and India, Sir William Chambers (1726-1796) was by far the most internationally minded British architect of his time. Settling in London in 1755, Chambers became a favorite of King George III and went on to hold the highest official architectural offices and to build public and private commissions throughout the British Isles. Because of his eclectic neo-Palladian style, seminal Treatise on Civil Architecture (1759), and longterm influence through his numerous pupils, Chambers was regarded as one of the two greatest architects of late eighteenth-century Britain, sharing the honor with the more prolific Robert Adam.
In this wide-ranging book, leading scholars of the period present current research on Chambers' Scandinavian and French connections; his Italian studies and projects; his relationship with British royalty; his commissioned buildings, interiors, and gardens; his furniture and metalwork designs; and his Treatise. Chambers designed and commanded works at Buckingham House, Kew, Richmond, and Windsor Castle, and was commissioned in 1774 to design the public offices at Somerset House in London. Charged with creating "an object of national splendour as well as convenience," Chambers met the challenge with a building equal to the best of those created by the French architects with whom he had trained. Selecting the highest quality materials, ornamentation, and painted decoration for Somerset House, Chambers' building showcased the best in British craftsmanship.
This book was the catalogue for a William Chambers exhibition mounted in fall 1996 by the Courtauld Institute Galleries at Somerset House, their new home.
John Harris is a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Center at Santa Monica and is the author of Sir William Chambers,(1970). Michael Snodin is a keeper at the Victoria and Albert Museum. They are joint curators of the Courtauld Institute exhibition.