Man with Many Faces

Exploring the architectural design practices and contemporary ideals of Thomas Jefferson.

Mather Brown (American, 1761−1831), Thomas Jefferson, 1786, oil on canvas, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

Photo courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Thomas Jefferson was a man of many traits—a skilled politician and a respected builder and engineer who conveyed ideals of liberty and democracy in his designs. A new exhibition in Norfolk, open Oct. 19 through Jan. 19, 2020, explores the Founding Father’s extraordinary architectural influence. Organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art in collaboration with the Palladio Museum in Vicenza, Italy, Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals focuses on the ideas, formation, and key monuments of the Founding Father who dramatically influenced the architectural profile of our young republic, as well as Jefferson’s pursuit of contemporary ideals. 

“Thomas Jefferson engaged with the most advanced ideas of architecture and city planning of his era,” says Erik H. Neil, director of the Chrysler Museum and one of the exhibition’s curators. “We will examine these facets of Jefferson’s architectural formation and practice to foster a new and fuller understanding of his accomplishments.”

The exhibition follows Jefferson’s evolution as an architect with nearly 130 objects, including models, rare books, paintings, drawings, early photographs, and architectural elements from the Chrysler’s rich collection, as well as items on loan from the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, Jefferson’s residences at Monticello and Poplar Forest, the University of Virginia, and other museums and libraries. The artifacts include 10 newly created models of Jefferson’s buildings, such as Monticello and his design for the U.S. president’s house, which was not selected, as well as numerous representations of the Pantheon, which provided architectural influence for his design of the University of Virginia’s Rotunda. Chrysler.org


This article originally appeared in our October 2019 issue.

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