Sir John Soane

Soane, born 1753 at Whitchurch in Oxfordshire the son of a bricklayer or a mason depending on who is writing his lifestory.

His real name was Swan which he changed to Soan and then he changed the spelling to Soane.

He was an English architect who specialised in the Neo-classical style.  Rising to the top of his profession, and becoming professor of architecture at the Royal Academy and an official architect to the Office of Works. He received his knighthood in 1831.

George Dance the Younger, who, observing Soane artistic talent, took him into his office, and later transferred him to that of Henry Holland, with whom he remained until 1776.

In 1772, Soane gained the Royal Academy silver medal with a drawing of the elevation of the Banqueting House at Whitehall and, in 1776, the gold medal with a design for a triumphal arch, a remarkable composition which also earned for him the travelling studentship. In March 1777, he went to study in Italy.

Soane returned to England in 1780 and, during the next few years, erected many country houses.  In 1788, on the death of Sir Robert Taylor, he was appointed architect to the Bank of England and this success proved the starting point of his prosperous career.

In 1791, Soane was appointed clerk of the works at St. James’s Palace and the Houses of Parliament.

The architect John Soane demolished and rebuilt three houses in succession on the north side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, beginning with No. 12 in 1792 and 1794, moving on to No. 13, and concluding with No. 14, rebuilt in 1823-24.

Soane’s best-known work was the Bank Of England (his work there is largely destroyed), a building which had a widespread effect on commercial architecture.

He also designed Dulwich Picture Gallery, which, with its top-lit galleries, was a major influence on the planning of subsequent art galleries and museums.

soaneSir John Soane’s museum comprises his collections and personal effects, acquired between the 1780s and his death in 1837. The museum’s collections contain many important works of antiquities and art, including Hogarth’s a Rake’s Progress and many other interesting artifacts.

Soane’s buildings were generally well planned, but in his later ones the elevations rarely proved satisfactory, being marred by to much ornamentation.  He incurred much hostile criticism and ridicule, and a satirical attack upon his dull Grecian style.

In 1806, he succeeded George Dance as professor of architecture at the academy and the courses of lectures, which in that capacity he delivered, commencing in 1809, attracted much attention.

In 1810, they were temporarily suspended in consequence of a vote of censure passed upon him by the academy for adversely criticising the work of a brother-architect.

In 1833, Soane resigned all his appointments and retired from practice and, in 1835, was presented with a set of medals by the architects of England in recognition of his public services.

Soane supported lots of charitable institutions connected with art and literature.

Despite his philanthropic instincts, Soane was a man of intractable temper, and not happy in his domestic relations. In 1784, he had married Elizabeth Smith (d. 1815), who was the niece of George Wyatt, a wealthy builder, to whose fortune he thereby succeeded. By her, he had two sons, John and George; the former died in 1823 at the age of thirty-six; with the latter he established a lifelong feud, and he is said to have declined a baronetcy in order that his son might not inherit anything from him.




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