John Russell Pope

Steven McLeod Bedford, Author, Jonathan Wallen, Photographer, William L. MacDonald, Introduction by
Steven McLeod Bedford, Author, Jonathan Wallen, Photographer, William L. MacDonald, Introduction by Rizzoli International Publications $60 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8478-2086-3
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998
Release date: 07/01/1998
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The stoic, marble-clad facades of John Russell Pope's best-known buildings--the Temple of the Scottish Rite, the National Gallery of Art, the Jefferson Memorial (all in Washington, D.C.)--give no hint of the sad ending to the architect's life. Just as Pope (1874-1937) reached the peak of his career, the classical idiom that he had spent his life mastering fell out of favor, and he was savagely rejected by an American design community increasingly enamored of the International Style. Reviewing Pope's career in this lavishly illustrated (250 illustrations, 100 in color) biographical survey, architectural historian Bedford fairly contends that Pope is ""the quintessential American classical architect of the first part of the century."" Bedford, however, offers little response to the modernist argument that dressing 20th-century buildings like Greek and Roman temples constitutes a ""tired architectural lie."" More than 60 years ago, Pope too responded with silence to critics who dismissed him as part of an enervated architectural elite practicing ""styles that are safely dead"" and depriving others, like the older but more avant-garde Frank Lloyd Wright, of commissions. Silence, in fact, permeates these pages: Because most of Pope's papers were lost or destroyed after his death, the architect's voice is largely absent. The reader comes away from this comprehensive and luxurious-looking overview of Pope's Georgian mansions and classical monuments with admiration for this neglected architect's work, but the man behind the dignified facades remains enigmatic. (Aug.)
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