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Title: Lines of Utility: Outlines, Architecture, and Design in Britain, c. 1800
Authors: Cohen, Alexis Helena
Advisors: da Costa Meyer, Esther
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Keywords: Britain
design publications
eighteenth century
outline drawing
Subjects: Art history
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: In both the architectural and design publications that helped define Neoclassicism in Britain, praise for linearity, lines, and outlines was often accompanied by an equal regard for utility, a concept crucial to multiple eighteenth-century disciplines including political economy and social reform, but which has yet to be used as a central theme in the study of Neoclassicism. This dissertation probes the relationship between line and utility through an analysis of the outline drawing, a graphic idiom that proliferated around 1800. Although best known through John Flaxman's illustrations of Classical texts such as Homer's Odyssey, the outline drawing was also used by architects, designers, and industrialists in publications documenting and modeling Neoclassical buildings and their attendant objects. In the graphic language of the outline drawing, lines were used to produce emphatically simple drawings in alliance with Neoclassical aesthetic ideals of clarity and simplicity. Within these aesthetic strictures, practitioners of the outline drawing also sought the precision and utility of the lines of geometers and engineers. Through archival research and close study of primary sources, the dissertation assembles an original constellation of designers, publications, and institutional practices to reveal how notions of utility entered Neoclassical aesthetic discourses. <bold>Chapter 1</bold> pivots around the policies and practices of The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce exploring what outlines meant before they were theorized by George Cumberland circa 1800. The chapter examines their appearance in writings by figures such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Joshua Reynolds, William Hogarth as well as their connection to the disegno e colore debate and Pliny's myth of the origin of painting. <bold>Chapter 2</bold> studies James Stuart and Nicolas Revett's <italic>Antiquities of Athens</italic> (4 vols., 1762-1816), probing how precise, archaeological line drawings assumed a technical authority through their participation in an evolution of depictions of the builder's tool, the plumb-line. <bold>Chapter 3</bold> focuses on Thomas Hope's <italic>Household Furniture and Interior Decoration</italic> (1807) establishing historical connections between Hope's outline drawings, developments in technical drawing, namely Gaspard Monge's codification of descriptive geometry, the language of useful lines in cabinetmaker's publications, and utility theory in classical political economy. <bold>Chapter 4</bold> discusses William Blake's theory of "the bounding line" in the context of Wedgwood's commission for outline engravings of Useful Ware (c. 1815), the basic bowls, cups, and saucers distinguished from the manufactures' Ornamental Ware that often emulated antique vases and decorative motifs. The chapter uses the Useful-Ornamental divide within Wedgwood's business to focus broader cultural relationships between beauty and utility in eighteenth-century Britain. As a type of drawing in which aesthetic expression coexists with emerging ideas about the utilitarian potential of line, the outline drawing illuminates a period of nascent tension between aesthetic values of Neoclassicism and values of the industrial age. Conceptualizing the outline drawing as the visual language of a critical discourse tied to the emergence of utility as an Enlightenment value, the dissertation argues that the idiom is not only central to understanding Neoclassicism's engagement with utility, but also offers a means of probing one of Neoclassicism's central and persistent problems: how to define the status of modernity vis à vis antiquity.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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