Robert Adam Biography
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Robert Adam (3 July 1728 - 3 March 1792) was a Scottish architect,
interior designer and furniture designer, born in Kirkcaldy, Fife,
He was the second son of William Adam (1689-1748) of Maryburgh,
Fife, a stonemason and architect of some note, appointed Surveyor
of the King's Works in Scotland in 1729 and Mason to the Board
of Ordnance a year later.
Robert studied at Edinburgh High School, then entered Edinburgh
University in 1743 only for his studies to be interrupted by illness
and the Jacobite Rising of 1745. In 1746, he joined his older
brother, John Adam, as an assistant to his father, and after William
Adam’s death in 1748, the two brothers became partners in the
family business, now known as 'Adam Brothers'.
Their first major commission was the decoration of the grand
State Apartments on the first floor at Hopetoun House, near South
Queensferry west of Edinburgh, followed by projects at Fort George,
Dumfries House and Inverary. In 1754, Robert Adam set off for
Europe on the Grand Tour of France and Italy, studying classical
architecture and honing his drawing skills (his art tutors included
French architect Charles Lois Clérisseau and architect and archaeologist
Giovanni Battista Piranesi). During this journey, he studied intensively
the ruins of Diocletian's palace at Spalato in Dalmatia, later
publishing The Ruins of the Palace of Diocletian in 1764.
He returned to Great Britain in 1758 and set up in business
in London with his brothers James and William, focused on designing
complete schemes for the decoration and furnishing of houses.
Palladian design was popular, but Robert evolved a new, more flexible
style incorporating elements of classic Roman design alongside
influences from Greek, Byzantine and Baroque styles. The Adams’
success can also be attributed to a desire to design everything
down to the smallest detail, ensuring a sense of unity in their
Projects Osterley Park, LondonThe Adelphi development, London
façade of the Admiralty, Whitehall, London Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
Apsley House, London (1778) Ballochmyle House, Ayrshire Bowood
House, near Calne, Wiltshire Charlotte Square (north side), Edinburgh
(1791) Culzean Castle, south Ayrshire (1772-1790) Edinburgh University
Old College Harewood House, West Yorkshire Kedleston Hall, near
Derby (1759-1765) Kenwood House, Hampstead, London (1768) Lansdowne
House, Berkeley Square, London Luton Hoo, Bedfordshire (1766-1770)
Nostell Priory Osterley Park, west London (1761-1780) Portland
Place, London (1773) Pulteney Bridge, Bath (1770) Register House,
Edinburgh (1774-1789) Saltram House, Plymouth, Devon Shardeloes,
Amersham, Buckinghamshire Syon House interior, Brentford (1762-1769)
Wedderburn Castle, Duns, Berwickshire (1770-1778)
Robert was elected a member of the Royal Society of Arts in 1758
and of the Society of Antiquaries in 1761, the same year he was
appointed Architect of the King’s Works (jointly with Sir William
Chambers). His younger brother James succeeded him in this post
when he relinquished the role in 1768 in order to devote more
time to his elected office as Member of Parliament for Kinross.
Robert Adam died suddenly at his home, 11 Albermarle Street,
London, after a blood vessel in his stomach burst. He was 64.
He was buried in Westminster Abbey.
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