Airing: October 18, 2019

Coming Up: The Conflicting Ideals in Jefferson’s Architecture

Drawing by Thomas Jefferson showing the original front elevation of his home Monticello, located in Albemarle County, Virginia. Image from “Domestic Architecture of the American Colonies and of the Early Republic,” by Fiske Kimball, New York, 1922, fig. 72. The original drawing is in Coolidge collection. PD.

The most important architectural thinker of the young American republic was Thomas Jefferson. He also held captive more than 600 enslaved men, women, and children in his lifetime. Architects Mabel O. Wilson (Columbia University) and Louis Nelson (University of Virginia) discuss Jefferson’s conflicting ideals. Also featured: Erik Neil (Chrysler Museum of Art) takes us through the new Chrysler exhibit that explores the inherent conflict between Jefferson’s pursuit of liberty and democracy and his use of enslaved laborers to construct his monuments.

Later in the show: Phillip Herrington (James Madison University) says the white-columned plantation house is one of the most enduring and divisive icons of American architecture. Also: The history of segregation is not just in our architecture, but in other public arts. John Ott (James Madison University) is studying how artists in the early 20th century represented integration in their works, particularly in public murals and sculptures.

Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals is on view at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia now through January 19th. The Chrysler Museum and the Palladio Museum in Vicenza, Italy, collaborated on the exhibition, which focuses on the ideas and key monuments of the Founding Father who shaped the architectural profile of America. It also confronts the conflict between Jefferson’s ideals of liberty and his use of enslaved people to construct his monuments.

Support for this episode was provided by Susan and Norman Colpitts, the Docent Council of the Chrysler Museum of Art, and Kirkland M. Kelley.


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