As a postgraduate student, I spent a lot of time working on John Vanbrugh in connection with his designs for Castle Howard. I also was influenced by reading his correspondence with Henry Joynes, the Clerk of Works at Blenheim. It was the opposite of what you might expect: here were the letters of an architect who was hard-working, conscientious and deeply involved in all aspects of Blenheim’s construction. I am now writing his biography to coincide with the tercentenary of his death in 2026.

This talk gives an overview of Vanbrugh’s life and particularly his posthumous reputation. Why was he so much more famous in the 1920s than he is now? Why has his reputation been overtaken by Hawksmoor? Is there anything new to say about him?

Charles Saumarez Smith published The Building of Castle Howard in 1990. Since then, he has been Director of the National Portrait Gallery, Director of the National Gallery and was Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy until 2018.

The talk is chaired by Peter Murray OBE, Temple Bar Trust, Chair...

This event includes a complimentary networking reception with the speaker and audience members following the talk.


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