A particularly pure form of classicism that emerged from about 1750

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  • Sir Joshua Reynolds, 'Three Ladies Adorning a Term of Hymen' 1773

    Sir Joshua Reynolds
    Three Ladies Adorning a Term of Hymen 1773
    Oil on canvas
    support: 2337 x 2908 mm frame: 2902 x 3382 x 180 mm
    Bequeathed by the Earl of Blessington 1837

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  • James Barry, 'King Lear Weeping over the Dead Body of Cordelia' 1786-8

    James Barry
    King Lear Weeping over the Dead Body of Cordelia 1786-8
    Oil on canvas
    support: 2692 x 3670 mm
    Purchased 1962

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  • Benjamin West, 'Cleombrotus Ordered into Banishment by Leonidas II, King of Sparta' 1768

    Benjamin West
    Cleombrotus Ordered into Banishment by Leonidas II, King of Sparta 1768
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1384 x 1854 mm frame: 1480 x 1935 x 77 mm
    Presented by W. Wilkins 1827

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Following the discovery of the Roman ruins of Pompeii and also the publication in 1764 of a highly influential history of ancient art by German scholar Winckelmann, there was an intense flourishing of classicism in art, architecture and design in the eighteenth century.

In Britain it can be seen in the paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds, Benjamin West and James Barry and in sculpture in the work of John Flaxman, whose illustrations to Homer’s Odyssey particularly reflect this interest. Neoclassicism was also an important influence on architecture, particularly in Scotland (Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson) but also for example St George’s Hall, Liverpool; Euston Arch (demolished), and the British Museum, in London.