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Robert Adam:
Creator of Adam Furniture

by JC Pinkerton

Who Was Robert Adam?
Robert Adam, son of a Scotts architect, was born on July 3, 1728 in Kirkcaldy, Fifeshire in Scotland. Robert Adam became famous for his creation of a popular architectural and furniture style in the last half of the eighteenth century. Educated in Edinburgh he attended a university known as Town’s Colleges for two years and dropped out to go to work for his father. After his father’s death he became a partner with his older brother.

The Adam Style came about mostly as a result of his many travels. He journeyed to Italy with his friend, Charles Hope whose brother was the Earl of Hopetoun. In Italy he met Charles Louis Clerisseau, a French architect. He also met Giovanni Battista Piranesi, architect and archeologist whom he admired greatly.

The influence these men had upon Adam’s work shows through in his early sketches. In Italy, Adam and his friend, Clerisseau enjoyed sketching the ruins of Roman structures. These sketches were later published in his book entitled The Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian. In 1759, Adam went to England and began a celebrated career as an architect.

Architectural Style:
His first assignment was the construction of the columnar screen in front of the Admiralty, Whithall, London. Two years later he and Sir William Chambers served as Architect of His Majesty’s Works. In 1761 his brother James went to work with him and they published The Works of Robert and James Adam in 1773.

The Adelphi in London is considered the finest work of James and Robert Adam. They built it in 1768 and it was an enormous project in which several streets of houses were planned, much like our modern neighborhoods today. When they took on the project of designing a structure, they would design everything that went into it, including furniture and accessories. This type of unity was unknown to English architecture but this approach was always used in French palaces.

Robert and James Adam built many country houses such as Kenwood House and Osterley Park. Adam became known for building many town houses in London, which later led to financial problems. In his later years he lived in Edinburgh and produced even finer work such as neo-Gothic castles. Adam died in 1792 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. A portrait of Robert Adam hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London.

The Home Adv. Library. Chicago.
Lexicon Univ. Ency. New York


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