Vanbrugh, Sir John

Vanbrugh, Sir John
(baptized Jan. 24, 1664, London, Eng.
died March 26, 1726, London) English dramatist and architect.

He began writing while serving as a soldier. He specialized in the comedy of manners; his successful plays include The Relapse (1696) and The Provok'd Wife (1697). He also wrote lively adaptations from the French, more farce than comedy, including The Country House (performed 1703) and The Confederacy (1705). In 1702 he designed Castle Howard, Yorkshire, with Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661–1736). His masterpiece, again with Hawksmoor, was Blenheim Palace (1705–16), Oxfordshire, which brought the English baroque style to its culmination.

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▪ British dramatist and architect
baptized Jan. 24, 1664, London, Eng.
died March 26, 1726, London
 British architect who brought the English Baroque style to its culmination in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. He was also one of the dramatists of the Restoration (Restoration literature) comedy of manners (manners, comedy of).

      Vanbrugh's grandfather was a Flemish merchant, and his father was a businessman in Chester, Cheshire, Eng., where the young Vanbrugh (by tradition) went to the King's School. In 1686 he was commissioned in a regiment of foot soldiers and in 1690, while visiting Calais, France, was arrested as a suspected English agent. While imprisoned in the Bastille, he wrote the first draft of a comedy. After his release in 1692, he was a soldier again for six years but appears to have seen no active service.

      Vanbrugh's first comedy, The Relapse: Or Virtue in Danger, was written as a sequel to Colley Cibber (Cibber, Colley)'s Love's Last Shift. It opened in 1696 and was highly successful. His next important piece, The Provok'd Wife (1697), was also a triumph. In 1698 the churchman Jeremy Collier (Collier, Jeremy) published an attack on the immorality of the theatre aimed especially at Vanbrugh, whose plays were more robust than those of such contemporaries as William Congreve (Congreve, William). Vanbrugh and others responded, but to little effect, and Vanbrugh kept silent until 1700. Then came a sequence of free and lively adaptations from the French, more farce than comedy, including The Country House (first performed 1703) and The Confederacy (1705).

      In 1702 Vanbrugh entered another field: he designed Castle Howard in Yorkshire, for Lord Carlisle. His first design was far simpler than the richly articulated palace that resulted. Probably he was untrained, but aptly at hand was Nicholas Hawksmoor (Hawksmoor, Nicholas), the accomplished clerk of the great architect Sir Christopher Wren (Wren, Sir Christopher). Hawksmoor played the assistant to Vanbrugh but was in effect the partner. These two men brought to its peak English Baroque (Baroque period)—an architecture concerned with the rhythmic effect of diversified masses, using Classical architectural elements to that end. The Vanbrugh-Hawksmoor Baroque manner is often called “heavy,” but the heaviness is in the service of the dramatic. The style they evolved was a joint creation: Hawksmoor had already begun to develop it in the 1690s and acted as draftsman, administrator, and architectural detailer, while Vanbrugh is credited with the buildings' general plan and heroic scale.

      Through Lord Carlisle, who was head of the Treasury, Vanbrugh became in 1702 comptroller of the queen's works. In 1703 he designed the Queen's Theatre, or Opera House, in the Haymarket. Though a magnificent building, it proved a failure, partly because of its poor acoustics, and he lost considerable money in the venture.

      In 1705 Vanbrugh was chosen by John Churchill, 1st duke of Marlborough (Marlborough, John Churchill, 1st Duke of, Marquess Of Blandford, Earl Of Marlborough, Baron Churchill Of Sandridge, Lord Churchill Of Eyemouth, Reichsfürst), to design the palace at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, which was the nation's gift to that hero of many campaigns. Blenheim Palace, named for Marlborough's most famous victory, was the architectural prize of Queen Anne's reign. Again Hawksmoor was indispensable to Vanbrugh: Blenheim (1705–16) is their joint masterpiece. Any one of its powerful components may have been of Hawksmoor's shaping, but the planning and broad conception were surely Vanbrugh's, and the massive effect was the result of the hero-worshipping soldier-architect. Though the duke approved the plans, the duchess did not; there was trouble over costs and payments, and Vanbrugh left the project. He continued to design picturesque country houses in the style of castles, however, and in such buildings as Kimbolton Castle in Huntingdon (1707–10) and Kings Weston in Gloucestershire (now in Bristol; c. 1710–14), his style became simpler in its use of decoration and of starkly geometric masses of masonry. The setting of the houses was important, and Vanbrugh appears to have been engaged to some extent in considerations of landscape. However, he was never credited as a garden designer.

      Under George I, Vanbrugh was knighted in 1714 and made comptroller again in 1715. Influenced by the art of fortification and Elizabethan building, Vanbrugh's great last works were Eastbury (1718–26) in Dorset, Seaton Delaval (1720–28) in Northumberland (1720–28), and Grimsthorpe Castle (1722–26) in Lincolnshire. Without Hawksmoor, he adopted a simple style in these designs, using a few elementary forms with increasing audacity, until in Seaton Delaval he achieved the height of drama with a comparatively small house.

Additional Reading
Studies include Kerry Downes, Sir John Vanbrugh (1987), a biography, and Vanbrugh (1977), on his architecture; Arthur R. Huseboe, Sir John Vanbrugh (1976), on his writing; Vaughan Hart, Sir John Vanbrugh: Storyteller in Stone (2008), on the dramatic nature of his buildings; and Frank McCormick, Sir John Vanbrugh: A Reference Guide (1992), a resource for students of his writing.

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • Vanbrugh,Sir John — Van·brugh (vănʹbrə, văn bro͞oʹ), Sir John. 1664 1726. English playwright and architect who wrote The Provok d Wife (produced 1697) and designed Blenheim Palace. * * * …   Universalium

  • Vanbrugh, Sir John — (bautizado el 24 ene. 1664, Londres, Inglaterra–26 mar. 1726, Londres). Dramaturgo y arquitecto inglés. Empezó a escribir mientras servía como soldado en el ejército. Se especializó en la comedia de costumbres; entre sus obras de teatro más… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • VANBRUGH, SIR JOHN —    dramatist, of uncertain birth; his dramas adaptations from the French of Molière and others; had been a soldier; was Clarencieux King at Arms, and is noted as an architect; d. 1726 …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Vanbrugh, Sir John — (1664 1726)    Dramatist and architect, b. in London of Flemish descent, was in France from 1683 to 1685, studying architecture, for which he had early shown a taste. The next year he got a commission in the army, and in 1690 he was a prisoner… …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • Sir John Vanbrigh — noun English architect (1664 1726) • Syn: ↑Vanbrugh, ↑John Vanbrugh • Instance Hypernyms: ↑architect, ↑designer …   Useful english dictionary

  • VANBRUGH (J.) — VANBRUGH sir JOHN (1664 1726) Personnage déconcertant par la multiplicité de ses activités. Très lié à la haute société anglaise, Vanbrugh œuvra dans le climat de la Restauration du temps de la reine Anne. En étroite collaboration avec Hawksmoor …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • sir — /serr/, n. 1. a respectful or formal term of address used to a man: No, sir. 2. (cap.) the distinctive title of a knight or baronet: Sir Walter Scott. 3. (cap.) a title of respect for some notable personage of ancient times: Sir Pandarus of Troy …   Universalium

  • john — /jon/, n. Slang. 1. a toilet or bathroom. 2. (sometimes cap.) a fellow; guy. 3. (sometimes cap.) a prostitute s customer. [generic use of the proper name] * * * I known as John Lackland born Dec. 24, 1167, Oxford, Eng. died Oct. 18/19, 1216,… …   Universalium

  • John — /jon/, n. 1. the apostle John, believed to be the author of the fourth Gospel, three Epistles, and the book of Revelation. 2. See John the Baptist. 3. (John Lackland) 1167? 1216, king of England 1199 1216; signer of the Magna Carta 1215 (son of… …   Universalium

  • John Vanbrugh — noun English architect (1664 1726) • Syn: ↑Vanbrugh, ↑Sir John Vanbrigh • Instance Hypernyms: ↑architect, ↑designer * * * John Vanbrugh [ …   Useful english dictionary

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