Summoned to Russia by Catherine the Great, Scottish architect Charles Cameron set sail from London in August 1779. Though he had as yet built nothing—his reputation was based almost entirely on authorship of a book on the baths of ancient Rome—Cameron became Architect to Her Imperial Majesty. Under the empress's patronage, Cameron turned the palaces and parks at Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk outside St. Petersburg into extravagant classical domains on the English model. This book tells how Catherine's tastes and habits, combined with Cameron's initiative and imagination, brought about some of the most dazzling and original large-scale architectural creations of the eighteenth century. It also relates the little-known story of the many British architects, craftsmen, and gardeners who came to Russia to work with Cameron and stayed to help transform towns, villages, and buildings throughout the country.
Dimitri Shvidkovsky, one of Russia's leading architectural historians, draws on previously unexplored archival materials to reveal how British culture, and British architecture in particular, brought neo-classicism to Russian buildings and gardens. He explains how the enigmatic and colorful Cameron came into the employ of the great Russian empress; how other foreigners made their marks in Russia (notably Scottish architects William Hastie and Adam Menelaws); and how British architects, park designers, and gardeners influenced Russian tastes at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century. With gorgeous color photographs of the extant palaces and gardens of imperial Russia and many early twentieth-century black and white photographs of buildings that were destroyed later in World War II, this book shows the splendor of Catherine's era.
Dimitri Shvidkovsky is professor and chair of the department of history at the Moscow Institute of Architecture, senior research fellow at the Institute of Theory and History of Fine Arts, and member of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts.