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John Russell Pope: Architect of Empire by…

John Russell Pope: Architect of Empire

by Steven McLeod Bedford

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0847820866, Hardcover)

Despite the contemporary fascination with all things classical that has fueled the recent antimodern movement, this is the first book in more than half a century to explore the career of John Russell Pope (1873-1937). And it is worth the wait as it luxuriously presents the work of the architect of the National Gallery of Art, the Jefferson Memorial, the National Archives, and dozens of other buildings that are now intrinsic to the constructed environment of the U.S. capital. Pope was an architect of such harmony, balance, and effortless grandeur that he might well be ignored by current American neoclassicists, whose ill-conceived gewgaws are put to shame by Pope's stately homes, serene monuments, authoritative collegiate buildings, and regal museums.

Architect and historian Steven McLeod Bedford began his solitary, comprehensive, and difficult research for this book during the 1980s, when proponents of the high-minded cultural imperatives of the late 19th century, including the Hudson River School painters, were in vogue. Bedford admirably analyses the strengths and weaknesses of an architect whose most famous buildings "expressed the grandiloquent aspirations of private and public patrons." He also puts Pope's contributions in historical perspective, noting that a 1961 history of American architecture published by the A.I.A. found "no merit in Pope's work." Bedford himself writes with careful objectivity that "Pope seemed to adhere to the precept that a certain set of classical forms and plans existed whose inherent beauty was immutable."

Bedford writes warmly but dispassionately about buildings that many people love, and some--such as those who listened to Martin Luther King Jr. speak on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, or visited the soaring, softly sky-lit rooms of the National Gallery--have special attachments to. Beauty of this exalted type may no longer be of interest to the architectural cognoscenti, but there is a quality of calm endurance to Pope's buildings that has lasting appeal. In spite of the author's reserve, this is an inspiring, elucidating book, filled with plans, drawings, and color photographs that do some belated justice to Pope's career. --Peggy Moorman

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:59 -0400)

John Russell Pope is considered one of America's finest and most important classical architects, and this illustrated book, long overdue, is the first comprehensive survey of his work. This definitive study, comprising mainly projects dating from 1910 to 1937, includes the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, Constitution Hall, the National Archives, and the Temple of the Scottish Rite in Washington, D.C.… (more)

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