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Exhibition presents illustrations from the Royal Academy lectures of Sir John Soane
Henry Seward. Arch of Augustus, Aosta, January 1807 © Sir John Soane’s Museum.

BERLIN.- This new temporary loan exhibition is the third collaborative project between the Museum for Architectural Drawing, Berlin and Sir John Soane’s Museum, London. The exhibition showcases a series of remarkable drawings produced by Sir John Soane to illustrate his lectures at the Royal Academy of Arts, London between 1809 and 1820. Beautifully rendered by Soane’s pupils from his own office and spanning subjects ranging from pre-history to the latest buildings of Regency London, these coloured illustrations offer a fascinating insight into Soane’s architectural mind and his role as an educator.

On 28th March 1806, John Soane (1753–1837) was elected Professor of Architecture at the Royal Academy, succeeding his old master, George Dance. As Professor of Architecture, Soane was required to deliver six lectures annually to the students of the Royal Academy. Key sources for Soane’s lectures were the books by Julien-David Le Roy and Jacques-François Blondel who were both Professors at the French Royal Academy of Architecture. Soane was also influenced by the course of six lectures he attended as a student at the Royal Academy in the 1770s, given by Thomas Sandby, first Professor of Architecture, which were accompanied by 128 novel water colour illustrations. For many students in the audience, the large coloured drawings illustrating the masterpieces of world architecture were an integral part of their experience of the lectures, offering them views of great works of architecture from across the world.

The lecture drawings, which number over 1,000, were produced by Soane’s pupils in his office working up to 12 hours a day. Some drawings took as long as several weeks to complete. This time-consuming and costly exercise reflected Soane’s commitment to the education of aspiring architects. This commitment was also one of the driving forces behind Soane’s creation of his extraordinary house-museum in London, which he conceived to act as ‘academy of architecture’ for the benefit of ‘ amateurs and students’ alike.

Despite the fact that the lecture drawings were not signed, it has been possible to identify the names of many of the pupils who made these drawings from Soane’s surviving daybooks. The drawings were in three main groups: those based on engravings from architectural folios on Soane’s shelves, notably Piranesi; those drawn by pupils on many site visits in London; and a large number that were based on Soane’s designs and on drawings by earlier architects in his collection.

The exhibition shows 27 of Soane’s most beautiful and important lecture illustrations. It was first shown at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in 2007 and is now coming to Berlin in a revised form.

The original exhibition at Sir John Soane’s Museum was curated by Professor David Watkin, author of Sir John Soane: Enlightenment Thought and the Royal Academy Lectures (1996).

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