Robert Adam and his Brothers

New light on Britain's leading architectural family

By Colin Thom

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Robert Adam is perhaps the best known of all British architects, the only one whose name denotes both a style and an era. The new decorative language he introduced at Kedleston and Syon around 1760 put him at the forefront of dynamic changes taking place in 18th-century British architecture. His later claim that his practice with his brother James had effected ‘a kind of revolution’ in design was no idle boast. Their style dominated the later Georgian period and their influence was widespread, not only in Western Europe but in Russia and North America. But for such a well-known figure, much of Robert Adam’s art still remains poorly understood.

This new study, based on papers given at a Georgian Group symposium in 2015, looks afresh at many aspects of the Adam brothers’ oeuvre, such as interior planning, their use of colour, the influence of classical sources, their involvement in the art market, town planning and building speculation, and Robert Adam’s late picturesque drawings and castle designs – all within the context of the Adam family background and their personal and working relationships. The Scottish architecture of Robert and James’s older brother, John, is also assessed.

There are essays by established Adam experts as well as contributions from a younger generation of historians and post-doctoral scholars.


  • Introduction: ‘‘Some promising young men’: Robert Adam and his brothers - Colin Thom
  • Johnnie, the eldest Adam Brother - Alistair Rowan
  • 'Antique Mad': the Adams as dealers and their stock of Antiquities - Jonathan Yarker
  • Context and Attribution: Antonio Zucchi's Portrait of James Adam (1763) - Jerzy J. Kierkuc-Bielinski
  • 'The true style of antique decoration': Agostino Brunias and the birth of the Adam style at Kedleston Hall and Syon House - Adriano Aymonino
  • Robert Adam's Scenographic Interiors - Miranda Hausberg
  • Design by Correspondence: Robert Adam and Headfort House - Conor Lucey
  • A 'Classical Goth': Robert Adam's engagement with medieval architecture - Peter N. Lindfield
  • The Ingenious Mr Adam - David King
  • The Adam Brothers and Portland Place: A reassessment - Colin Thom
  • Temporal sublime: Robert Adam's castle style and geology in the Scottish Enlightenment - Marrikka Trotter
  • 'The Parent Style or the Original Sin': The Adam revival in America - Eileen Harris

Additional Information

  • Series: Architectural History
  • Publication Status: Completed
  • Pages: 288
  • Illustrations: 220, colour
  • ISBN: 9781848023598


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