The Grand Tour and Neo-Classicism

The major excavations of Roman sites in the eighteenth century fuelled a fashion for classicism that touched on all aspects of visual culture – architecture, painting, sculpture, furniture, tableware, clothing and jewellery. It became the practice for the nobility and wealthy gentry to spend several months travelling to Europe as part of their education, and Rome was the highpoint of the tour. As a souvenir of the visit, or just to be part of the fashion, the Grand Tourists might have their portrait painted dressed in classical-style garments, often with a setting that featured buildings and ruins recognisably Roman or classical pastiches. Artists travelled to Rome to acquaint themselves with ancient artefacts, to expose themselves to the aesthetic, to meet other artists working in the genre, and to obtain commissions. Hugh Douglas Hamilton and   James Barry (referred to under ‘Mythology’) were among many Irish artists who went to Rome .

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