Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals
October 19, 2019 — January 19, 2020
First Floor, Special Exhibitions Gallery
Thomas Jefferson was the most important architectural thinker of the young republic.
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was Governor of Virginia, Secretary of State, President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence. The most important architectural thinker of the young American republic, Jefferson conveyed ideals of liberty and democracy in his designs. He was also a slave owner. This exhibition explores this divergence alongside his extraordinary architectural influence.
Organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art in collaboration with the Palladio Museum in Vicenza, Italy, this exhibition focuses on the ideas, formation and key monuments of the Founding Father who dramatically influenced the architectural profile of the young republic. It will also confront the inherent conflict between Jefferson’s pursuit of contemporary ideals of liberty and democracy and his use of slave labor to construct his monuments.
The exhibition follows Jefferson’s evolution as an architect with nearly 130 objects, including models, rare books, paintings, drawings, early photographs and architectural elements. Visitors will see objects from the Chrysler’s rich collection, as well as loans from the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, Jefferson’s residences at Monticello and Poplar Forest in Virginia, the University of Virginia and other museums and libraries.
Designed by Simone Baldissini and Mauro Zocchetta
Constructed by Ivan Simonato
Model of Jefferson’s design for the President’s House competition (scale 1:66)
Wood, resin, and tempera
Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, Vicenza
His designs for the Virginia State House, the University of Virginia and his home at Monticello established a new standard for America. Jefferson sought to convey ideals of liberty and democracy with architecture rooted in the classical tradition and the models of the Renaissance master Andrea Palladio.
Thomas Jefferson (American, 1743−1826)
Monticello: ionic portico and dome, recto, probably 1778
Coolidge Collection of Thomas Jefferson Manuscripts, Massachusetts Historical Society, N91;K62
Through his travels in the colonies and Europe and his extensive library, he engaged with contemporary ideas of architectural design. Yet, at the same moment, the creation of these monuments was founded on the economic and social institution of slavery. The inherent conflict is inescapable.
The Chrysler Museum of Art will examine these facets of Jefferson’s architectural formation and practice to foster a new and fuller understanding of his accomplishments.
Staffordshire, England, ca.1790
Stoneware, unglazed, with white and black clay
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Museum Purchase, 1982-202
Thomas Jefferson Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals is presented with support from Dominion Energy.
This project is supported in part by awards from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the U.S. Embassy of Italy. Support for the exhibition catalog is provided by the Norfolk Society of Arts.
Renowned scholars Mabel O. Wilson and Louis P. Nelson will discuss the contributions and legacy of enslaved craftsman on the architecture of Thomas Jefferson.
If you can dream it, you can build it! During this day devoted to building and creating, children of all ages and their adults are invited to learn, play and build. Create a castle out of blocks, design a tower out of LEGO blocks or draw your own fantasy city.