In 1790, George Washington tasked Gouverneur Morris, the American minister to France, with purchasing a variety of fashionable French objects for decorating his dining room. In making his selections, Morris wrote that it was imperative “to fix the taste of our Country properly,” and that grounding the new nation in the classical tradition, which has “been fashionable above two thousand years,” was the means to achieve this.
These men and their contemporaries inhabited a world heavily influenced by ancient Rome and Greece. Classical references permeated their societies in everything from government to education, from drama to literature. With the archaeological discoveries of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the widespread popularity of Andrea Palladio’s designs, the realms of art and architecture also came to be dominated by classical forms and motifs. Washington himself embraced the classical spirit, and with his design for Mount Vernon’s “New Room,” took the lead in introducing neoclassicism to America. Join leading curators, historians, and art and architectural historians as they examine a wide variety of Greco-Roman styles, influences, references, and forms that early Americans admired and celebrated.
The Mount Vernon Symposium is endowed by the generous support of The Robert H. Smith Family Foundation, Lucy S. Rhame, The Felicia Fund, The Sachem Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Mauran IV.Member Registration Non-Member Registration