Portrait of Inigo Jones
RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collection
Copyright: RIBA Library Drawings Collection
Inigo Jones is often called the first English architect. Best known for his revolutionary buildings in London, most notably the Queen's House, Greenwich
(1616) and the Banqueting House, Whitehall (1619), he can be described as the father of English Palladianism
Born in Smithfield, London in 1573, little is known of his early life except that he was the son of a Welsh cloth worker, and was christened at the church of St Batholomew the Less. Yet despite this humble start, Jones was to go far.
Travel was key to Jones's meteoric rise. On two separate occasions he travelled to Italy, undertaking an early version of the Grand Tour. These trips, between the years of 1598-1603 and 1613-1614, transformed his understanding of architecture.
In Italy, Jones was captivated by Roman ruins and the buildings of Andrea Palladio. Whilst there, he purchased a significant quantity of Palladio's drawings, a collection that would prove to have an extraordinary influence on British architecture.
Prior to his second visit, Jones had established himself as the leading designer of elaborate court entertainments known as 'masques'. On his return, Jones's architectural career began in earnest: in 1614 he was appointed Surveyor to the Kings' Works.
With both James I and Charles I Jones's chief patrons, Palladianism gained a reputation as the royal style. This resulted in a series of brilliant, costly buildings. However, this close association also meant that Jones's career was subject to the political upheavals of the day: the outbreak of the English Civil War in 1642, brought an end to his glittering career.
An architect of immense creativity, his greatest influence was Palladio. He examined Palladio's buildings in detail, as well as his books and drawings. However, he also drew on the ideas of Bramante, Serlio, Scamozzi (whom he met in Venice, 1614), and the French designer Jean Barbet.
In 1652, Jones died in Somerset House, London, one of his finest buildings. He was succeeded by his assistant John Webb, who continued to champion his fledgling architectural style. Many of Jones's building survive; so too do his drawings, the majority cherished by the RIBA British Architectural Library. Together, these continue to inspire architects to this day.