City Readers Digital Historic Collections at the New York Society Library
James Gibbs (1682-1754)
James Gibbs (23 December 1682 – 5 August 1754) was one of Britain's most influential architects. Born in Scotland, he trained as an architect in Rome, and practised mainly in England. His most important works are St Martin-in-the-Fields, in London, and the cylindrical, domed Radcliffe Camera at Oxford University.
Gibbs very privately was Roman Catholic and a Tory, and was therefore not part of the Palladian movement which was prevalent in English architecture of the period. The Palladians were largely Whigs, led by Lord Burlington and Colen Campbell, a fellow Scot who developed a rivalry with Gibbs. Gibbs' professional Italian training under the Baroque master Carlo Fontana also set him uniquely apart from the Palladian school. However, despite being unfashionable, he gained a number of Tory patrons and clients, and became hugely influential through his published works, which became popular as pattern books for architecture.
His architectural style did incorporate Palladian elements, as well as forms from Italian baroque and Inigo Jones (1573–1652), but was most strongly influenced by the work of Sir Christopher Wren (1632–1723), who was an early supporter of Gibbs. Overall, Gibbs was an individual who formed his own style independently of current fashions. Architectural historian John Summerson describes his work as the fulfilment of Wren's architectural ideas, which were not fully developed in his own buildings. Despite the influence of his books, Gibbs, as a stylistic outsider, had little effect on the later direction of British architecture, which saw the rise of Neoclassicism shortly after his death.