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Colen Campbell, 1676–1729
Lowther House, Westmorland: Elevation of the Garden Front
Former Title(s):
Elevation of garden front of Lowther Castle
between 1718 and 1729
Materials & Techniques:
Graphite, pen and wash within triple-ruled border on medium, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Sheet: 13 7/8 x 20 13/16 inches (35.2 x 52.9 cm)

Inscribed in graphite, center right: <[...]>

Watermark: Fleur-de-lis within crowned cartouche and W below

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawing & Watercolors-Architectural
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
architectural subject | country house | Palladian
Associated Places:
Accessible by appointment in the Study Room [Request]
Note: The Study Room is open by appointment. Please visit the Study Room page on our website for more details.
IIIF Manifest:

This is part of a set of four surviving drawings at the Yale Center for British Art showing Campbell’s proposal for rebuilding Lowther House for Henry Lowther, third Viscount Lonsdale (1694–1751) (see also B1977.14.1069–1072). The garden front features an attached portico of Corinthian pilasters and a large pediment with two staircases on semicircular plans providing a gradual descent from the principal floor to the garden. These drawings for Lowther were probably made shortly after 1718, when a fire damaged much of the late seventeenth-century house's center block and west wing. Campbell's proposed building rests partly on the footprint of the original, arranged on a north-south axis and between long office wings.

Colen Campbell was probably introduced to the third Viscount Londsdale by Richard Boyle, third earl of Burlington (1694–1753), a leading figure of the Palladian movement and an important early patron of Campbell. Lord Burlington helped launch the architect's career with introductions to influential and wealthy patrons in London and the north. Campbell made an early attempt to gain Lonsdale's patronage in 1717, when he dedicated to him a design for minor alterations to Lowther House in volume II of Vitruvius Britannicus. The architect’s later design, as shown in the Center’s drawings, was for a more drastic reconstruction, suggesting that it was submitted after the house’s destructive fire. Despite the detailed proposals, Campbell’s designs for Lowther House were never executed. Unfortunately for Campbell, Lonsdale’s finances suffered greatly from the South Sea Bubble crisis in 1720. He sold off more than £26,000 in estates, and he never salvaged the fire-damaged house. In 1806, Lowther House was rebuilt as a castellated mansion designed by Robert Smirke.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2014
Colen Campbell, along with the architect William Kent and the architect-patron Richard Boyle, Lord Burlington, was one of the chief proponents of the Palladian revival of the first part of the eighteenth century. Campbell was hired by a group of booksellers to act as the author, draftsman, and organizational force of Vitruvius Britannicus (1715-25, a three-volume edition of 100 plates each of plans, elevations, and sections. Planned as a review of contemporary English secular architecture, Campbell's text instead focused attention on the "antique simplicity" of buildings in the Palladian style, derived from the buildings in the and writings of Italian architect Andre Palladio (1508-80). Campbell used three volumes to inveigh against the excess of "foreign" baroque style as "affected and licentious," and he advocated the restrained classicism of a Palladian style, seen a "native" to England in the work of Inigo Jones. The volume was hugely influential and its large distribution sparked a vogue of architectural publications.

His reputation and architectural theories established with Vitruvius Britannicus, Campbell was able to concentrate on his own architectural pratice. Although he courted government commissions, he found his greatest success as an architect of country houses. He submitted this design to Henry, 3rd Viscount Lonsdale, for the rebuilding of his fire damaged Lowther Castle. Although never executed, the design shows Campbell's begrudging appreciations of the baroque architects such as Sir John Vanbrugh in the use of decorative urns (cat. 110) and giant-order pilasters. However, Campbell here preserves the strict structural symmetry that would become one of the hallmarks of his early neo-Palladian style. This façade would have faced the elaborate garden landscape that surely accompanied the renovations.

Morna O'Neill

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 134, cat. no. 112, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

The Line of Beauty : British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century (Yale Center for British Art, 2001-05-19 - 2001-08-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

Howard Colvin, Architectural drawings from Lowther Castle, Westmoreland, Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, London, 1980, pp. 26-7, nos. 27-30, NA7746 .W3 A73 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, p. 134, no. 112, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Eric R. Wolterstorff, British architectural drawings, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Conn., 1982, p. 8, no. 6, V 0251 (YCBA) [YCBA]

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