DESIGNS FOR LOUGH CREW HOUSE, COUNTY MEATH, IRELAND, Charles Robert Cockerell

DESIGNS FOR LOUGH CREW HOUSE, COUNTY MEATH, IRELAND, Charles Robert Cockerell

c. 1788 to c. 1863 Ireland

Offered by Charles Plante Fine Arts

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This cross-section by Charles Robert Cockerell (1788-1863) is of Lough Crew, Co. Meath, near Oldcastle, Ireland, built for James Lennox William Naper (1791-1868) in 1821-29. Largely demolished around 1965, the superb Greek Doric lodge survives. It bulks large in Cockerell's diaries as his largest commission of the decade, along with the Hanover Chapel in Regent Street of 1823-25. The staircase hall is depicted lit by a tall glazed dome, making use of new iron construction, which was similar to that he provided at the Hanover Chapel. The cantilevered staircase below it doubtless had the brass rails familiar in Irish Georgian country houses.

Cockerell returned to England in 1817 full of the exciting discoveries he had made about ancient Greek architecture. Lough Crew, particularly its exteriors, showed the problems of applying knowledge of Greek architecture to country houses. A vast austere cube of beautifully cut limestone ashlar, it was enlivened only by a tall Ionic portico on the entrance front and a pedimented frontispiece with round-headed windows on the side or garden elevation. Also important was its relation to its vast landscaped setting and to the succession of giant, grassy, terraced banks with which Cockerell combined Greece and the Picturesque, a device he also adopted at Grange Park. It was an expensive house, though Cockerell calculated that labour and materials were about twenty-five per cent cheaper in Ireland than in England. Nonetheless, in September 1827 he noted that its total cost amounted to over £22,000, that is nearly £6,000 more than the Hanover Chapel.

Cockerell visited it frequently while work was in progress, recording in his diary his discussions with Naper, an intelligent man with strong views. In October 1823, Cockerell noted: 'saw with much interest Lough Crew, work on which I has spent so much time and thought. all masonry done except upper cornice - roof finishing - proportions seem just but very plain, too bald, after all it is but a square house, admirably executed.' The next day he added, 'still think it sadly plain. will never again use the Athenian [Ionic] order except in small scale, columns look just and well.' He spent the next morning 'forming a plan of more spread & extent than Lough Crew which in its squareness left me an unpleasant impression . . . it would have been well to rusticate between the pilasters.'

Ironically, he thus felt obliged to criticise the building which helped establish him as a master of the Greek Revival, finding the Ionic of the little temple on the river Ilissus in Athens too minuscule for a monumental building, and regretting the absence of the richness which rustication and acroteria might have provided. Its rectilinear clarity owes much to Sir Robert Smirke, in whose office he worked in 1809-10. In 1824 he made the remarkably self-aware prediction, that 'I shall never get entirely out of Smirke's manner in my first works.' This he finally did in his masterpieces, Cambridge University Library (1837-40), and the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (1841-45), both still informed by Greece but achieving richly sculptural effects.
Dimensions
Height 279.00 mm (10.98 inches)
Width 495.00 mm (19.49 inches)
Medium
Watercolour with pen and ink
Charles Plante Fine Arts

Charles Plante Fine Arts
50 Gloucester Street
London
SW1V 4EH

+44 (0)20 7834 3305
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