Robert Adam and his Brothers

BookRobert Adam and his Brothers

Robert Adam and his Brothers

New light on Britain's leading architectural family

Historic England


March 15th, 2019





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 postdoctoral scholars, one of the book’s aims being to stimulate further research on the Adams’ contribution to British architecture, art and design.

'The publication of new research by a number of top scholars in the field will help architects and general enthusiasts alike to approach [the story of the Adam brothers and the role of Robert] with fresh understanding. This book, subtitled New light on Britain's leading architectural family, links a number of important strands and makes for compelling reading.'
Jeremy Musson, Country Life

'Despite the vast quantity of existing work on the Adam Brothers - John, Robert, James, and William - this brilliantly edited volume treads a new path in the field of Adam Studies [...] The individually authored and thematically focused chapters explore a range of topics from the collecting and dealing of antiques to architectural style, planning, and construction - offering a wide range and also extremely detailed fresh looks at the Adam architectural family.'Sydney Ayers, HBA

'In addition to the articles on medievalism... Editor Colin Thom supplies an extended “Introduction” that offers a lucid and valuable overview of this fascinating family and their accomplishments, not only in Scotland, but in the wider world.'William S. Rodner, Scotia

'It is the type of thought provoking study which makes this excellent publication a fine addition to research into the Adams’ contribution to British Architecture.'
Niall Murphy, Scottish society for Art History

Author Information

Colin Thom is a Senior Research Associate with the Survey of London at UCL's Bartlett School of Architecture and an expert on the work of the Adam brothers.

Table of Contents

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