The most important architectural thinker of the young American republic, Thomas Jefferson conveyed ideals of liberty and democracy in his designs.
Jefferson (1743–1826) was Governor of Virginia, Secretary of State, President of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence. He was also a slave owner. Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals explores this divergence alongside his extraordinary architectural influence.
Organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art in collaboration with the Palladio Museum in Vicenza, Italy, this exhibition focuses on the ideas, formation and key monuments of the Founding Father who dramatically influenced the architectural profile of the young republic. It will also confront the inherent conflict between Jefferson’s pursuit of contemporary ideals of liberty and democracy and his use of slave labor to construct his monuments.
The exhibition follows Jefferson’s evolution as an architect with nearly 130 objects, including models, rare books, paintings, drawings, early photographs and architectural elements. His designs for the Virginia State House, the University of Virginia and his home at Monticello established a new standard for America. Jefferson sought to convey ideals of liberty and democracy with architecture rooted in the classical tradition and the models of the Renaissance master Andrea Palladio.
Through his travels in the colonies and Europe and his extensive library, he engaged with contemporary ideas of architectural design. Yet, at the same moment, the creation of these monuments was founded on the economic and social institution of slavery. The inherent conflict is inescapable.
This exhibit is made possible in part by a grant from Virginia Humanities.