Richard Payne Knight

(1751—1824) art collector and writer

Show Summary Details

Quick Reference


English landscape theorist, member of the Society of Dilettanti, and connoisseur. He designed (with some initial help from T. F. Pritchard) Downton Castle, Herefs. (1772–8), a Picturesque composition in the Gothic style (though Neo-Classicism dominated the interiors) in which symmetry was avoided in the overall planning, but not in the individual rooms. It was the anti-symmetry of the plan that made it revolutionary, and it had a profound influence on English and Continental architects. Knight claimed that the house was designed to resemble buildings in landscapes by Claude Gellée (1600–82). His tastes and experiences led him to question ‘Capability’ Brown's style of landscape-design in The Landscape—A Didactic Poem (1794), helping to create a climate in which the asymmetrical, serene, reposeful, and informal aspects of much architecture and landscape-design developed in C19. His Analytical Enquiry into the Principles of Taste (1805) contained important discussions on contemporary architectural ideas, notably the Picturesque. When Lord Elgin (1766–1841) had the sculptures from the Parthenon exhibited in London Knight made a fool of himself by dogmatically declaring they were Roman of the time of Hadrian, and led other members of the Dilettanti in the controversy about their artistic worth. He also courted controversy when the Dilettanti published (1786) his Account of the Remains of the Worship of Priapus, regarded by the prissy as obscene and irreligious.

Ballantyne (1997);Chilvers, Osborne, & Farr (eds.) (1988);M. Clarke & Penny (eds.) (1992);Colvin & J. Harris (eds.) (1970);Knight (1794, 1972);Pevsner (1968)

Subjects: Architecture.

Reference entries

See all related reference entries in Oxford Index »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content. subscribe or login to access all content.