Turning Monticello to the monument was the greatest achievement in the history of art that Jefferson achieved at his time. He is one of the architects, who displayed stability in their works, as well as the freedom of exploring ideas from different areas. Jefferson’s competence in art was displayed in various designs he collected and borrowed from other art works. His style of mixing and matching the simple into the complex has enabled him to explore the linkages between the everyday life and the work of art. It is evident that the style used by the artist in his work is unique and holds deep message as an imperial art. Art helps us communicate our feelings and pass on the message. However, this paper seeks to explain Jefferson’s ability of fusing Monticello with American designs. In other words, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello represents a major symbol, marking the transition of American architecture into the neoclassicist era through representation of the Roman classical architecture.
Thomas Jefferson believed in preservation of ancient architectural designs and this fact has contributed to his tasteful nature in beautifying art. Although Jefferson was not trained in architecture, he studied Europe’s structures, and is remembered to be among the best architects in his times. By artfully molding and shaping his public image, Thomas Jefferson used Monticello’s architecture as the way of infusing art into the young country transforming the simple Virginian house into the artfully crafted and elaborately designed monument. Residences as monuments influenced the art of residential architecture and its purposes. From the rationalistic perspective, there is clarity in terms of room arrangement, proportion, and the form. This is because these works seem to have the borrowed techniques from the ancient Greek, and were adopted into the neoclassicist era through Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is the fine example of Neoclassicism architecture in the United States of America because it reveals the Roman form while still retaining the characteristics of Neoclassicism, it also has the picturesque English style landscape garden, and its overall stance creates the mood to show Jefferson’s double-sidedness, which consists of tolerance and practicality.
Monticello is the example of decent art work, and this can be seen from the compound to the walls, and even the roof. In addition to this, division of the wall in the house, and arrangement of the furniture displayed a combination of art at its best. Referring to the Monticello and other architectural works constructed by Thomas, it is evident that he is motivated by simple and natural objects. He believed in taking an object that had no intrinsic value, and gave it a touch of art that left one intrigued by the familiarity of the material used, but at the same time thrown off by the way it had been touched. By this the artist managed to combine pieces of ordinary discrete objects and make them into the forms one various art works that leave many with the question of how they came about.
In the construction of Monticello, Jefferson considered various factors such as cost, comfort, landscape among other factors. Deciding on whether to use plastic, logs, or blocks, Jefferson had to consider climatic conditions such as the level of cold in summer, and the warmth during the winter. His combination of architectural designs displayed naturalistic, simplistic and rationalistic sense. By the way, he infused Roman and American designs that represent a unique philosophical dimension in the world, where racist thoughts persist and freedom was a rare commodity. Looking at the final drawings of the elevation, it is evident that the central portico has two Roman orders, the Doric order used to offer support below is similar to Palladio; and an enhanced Ionic order, which is connected to the broad stair case. An illustration of the Doric order can be seen in Figure 2 of the Appendices.
The dome is another significant feature of the Monticello, which shows Roman classical architecture in action. The picture of the dome can be viewed in Figure 1 of the Appendices section. According to Cheuk “The dome, constructed in 1800, saw the first on a house in America”. Hence, being the first house in America with a dome, this marked the beginning of the new era in the practice of building, arising from this rather cultural and ideological importation. Jefferson lowered the west front second floor study room by about 8 feet and constructed the dome over it, which was inspired by Rome’s Temple of Vesta as illustrated in Giacorno Leoni’s revised edition of Palladio’s ‘Four Books of Architecture’. Jefferson in an attempt to mirror the classical Roman architectural designs incorporated the Roman orders into the Monticello. There are three Roman orders, which include the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. According to Adams Jefferson’s design, it was the result of carefully studying Palladio’s treatise, as opposed to adapting to the contemporary Virginian models.Hence, he adopted Palladio’s treatise and used it as the guide to draw something permanent.
In addition, the Corinthian order was used in some of the room designs. The presence of the full height and influted Corinthian pillars in the east parlor of Tuckahoe shows caps joined in the strange way, which confirms Jefferson’s view that perfection is no workman’s role. The Corinthian order specifically has the strong connection with the Roman classical approach. This can be seen in the base moldings and cornice, which were inspired by the Corinthian temple of Nerva Trajan, found in Palladio’s attic story. These views are also echoed with Howard, who remarked that “he played with columned porticos, triple-hung sash, and the de l’Orne dome”. Thus, the way the creation of the dome design during the Roman era brought positive influence into the Roman technique of the building is the same as Thomas Jefferson’s borrowing of the dome design changed the American architecture, consequently making the mark by enhancing it with beauty, elegance, and design.
The garden architecture of Monticello is another unique element that portrays its adoption of the English garden design. Jefferson was an individual overly concerned with the natural world. His methodological record of keeping portrays in his view of the common natural environment as a biological laboratory. His appreciation and admiration of nature led him not only to focus on the structural elements of Monticello, but also on other aesthetic values. As the result, Jefferson was able to express the English view of garden pleasure, metal roof surfaces, skylights, and other possible architectural contrivances. He went on to create a unique garden architecture that would later be adopted for his residence. The flower garden has the narrow flower border and ribbon beds arranged into 10-foot sections, and would not have been considered as the fashionable entity of modern standards, which are rather broad and with mixed perennial borders that define the modern garden art.
Jefferson consciously applied the principles borrowed from the period of Renaissance in achieving his goal of racial enlightenment in America. This partly played a role in his passion for the classical era, and the personal strive to merge this with the American way of life, consequently resulting in one of the most adored pieces of architecture globally, the Monticello. “Jefferson was the most universal as a human being of all his American and perhaps European contemporaries also”. This was partly driven by the manner, in which he embraced American and European virtues by incorporating them into his philosophy thatultimately defined his ideals regarding the classical era. Jefferson’s inspiration to adopt the English garden style came after his visit to England. This happened when he toured English gardens in 1786 while he was serving as the minister in France, during which he stated in the article, after returning, that gardening is undoubtedly vital for that country, in which it surpasses all the earth”. This was the second piece Jefferson was borrowing from Europe after Palladio’s in-depth review that led to the Monticello design. In essence, the English landscape design was an attempt to mirror eighteenth century landscape paints while trying to narrow the gap between the park, garden, and the English countryside.
In this regard, to achieve the English landscape design in the Monticello compound, Jefferson planted trees in clumps, created the informal serpentine flower walk, and ornamental forest or groove. The pictures for the trees in clumps can be seen in figure 4 and 5 in the Appendices. Since then, the clumped garden style has transformed the American landscaping architecture with successful attempts of Americanizing the English style. Thus, the English gardening style has infused into Thomas Jefferson’s neoclassicist approach as the unique way of transforming not only the structural component of the building, but also the surroundings. Additionally, using the landscape, Jefferson created a winding walk that suggested ‘a room outside an enclosed retreat’, while the flower beds were left open to the Piedmont Virginia landscape in order to create the intimate balance with nature, what Cheuk termed as ‘the workhouse of nature’, Jefferson attempted to blend the gardens with the building by creating a theme. This was especially evident with the vegetable/kitchen garden, which was termed as his most successful in the entire Monticello horticulture scheme. Thus, by focusing on the specific theme, Jefferson was able to bring into life neoclassicism by merging natural aspects of the surrounding into the physical and lifeless cornerstone. This was an important aspect in the neoclassicist era, where the definition of beauty of an architectural design not only consisted of the grand design, but it also included nature in the form of beautifully arranged landscape.
Thomas Jefferson’s exhibited tolerance by enduring the effort, time, and mindset to practically achieve his dream house, the Monticello. As the result, borrowing strongly from the Roman classical era designs, Jefferson merged this design fundamentals bringing with a new era of art christened as neoclassicism. “For Jefferson, plants were intimately associated with people – friends, neighbors, political allies – and the exchange of seeds, bulbs, and fruit scions represented a token of enduring friendship”. They served as a symbol of showing allegiance to his ideals by extending the seed of his product. Similar to the manner, in which he exported the European and Roman cultural, he sought to export his ideals to other areas, where he believed they would have an impact.
This reveals how the garden did not only serve the aesthetic value, but influenced the deeper meaning, which Jefferson intended to express to the world. Consequently, this new form of art thrived into the present time, taking into account the fact that Thomas Jefferson did not have a scholarly background in design; this was a natural gift. Thus, using his work of art, Thomas sought to use it as a way of imparting positive knowledge and thinking in terms of architecture among the Americans. For this reason it has received attention and recognition all over the world. His work is the appreciation of individualism concept coupled with collectivism. This implies that though people have different opinions, it is still possible to build one nation. It promotes unity and peace in the world.
Through his distinctive work, the Monticello, Thomas Jefferson emerged as one of the new forces in the phenomenal field of architectural design by searching for the Roman character and infusing this into the American ‘architecture alphabet’. Using the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders, Thomas Jefferson was able to impart a new form of housing design that had never been seen in America. This served to mark the onset of classical Roman architecture into America, which in the end transcended into neoclassicism. The influence of Palladio’s treatise on his course of architectural design leaves lasting vestiges with it, and serves as a landmark. Neoclassicism remains the era highly attributed to Thomas Jefferson’s struggle to promote independence of thought. This is exemplified by his own life, in which he strives to represent a unique philosophical dimension in the world where racist thoughts persist and freedom was a rare commodity.
To summarize, art is slowly moving away from the reality and this is the result of the changing world. Everything around is changing at such an alarming rate that artists are forced to keep moving with the shifting trends if they want to maintain their status in the art world. This can be termed as the greatest challenge facing artists. Another contributing factor to the changing art world is the introduction of technology in the system. Nowadays, paint is made of better quality materials and the brushes are even better. The quality of canvas has also not been left behind because it has been modified to accommodate the changing world trends. If artists fail to keep up with the modern world, they stand to lose their competitive edge over their younger counterparts in the art world. Art is the representation of the lives of mankind and the environment around them. This means that art changes with every change that happens in the world.
Generally, it is vital for people to appreciate art. This is because art helps us reflect on our lives. Eventually, through the concepts of the artist, we are able to change for the better. Let us all appreciate pieces of art.