tv Deutsche Welle Journal LINKTV September 3, 2013 11:00am-11:31am PDT
narrator: he was born in the wilderness of the english colony of virginia. and 33 years later, the words he wrote, would shape a new republic. but had he never written a single remembered word, it would still be said of him that he shaped the spaces and dimensions and the taste of the american nation.
"the cultivation of the instinct of beauty," he observed, "is a primary practical concern, especially under a government that makes no plans for an astocracy." on a day i1760, young thomas jefferson rides into williamsburg, virginia. back home, at the foot of the blue ridge mountains, he had already begun his study of greek and latin. [bell tolling]
now he will enter the college of william and mary to gain what he called a more universal acquaintance. though he is critical of the government and the architecture in williamsburg, he will return here many times over the next 20 years to study and practice law... and eventually to take up residence with his family as the second governor of virginia. "i was bred to the law," he once reflected, "and that gave me a view of the dark side of humanity." "then i read poetry to qualify it with a gaze upon its bright side."
the books he was purchasing in these years embraced the whole spectrum of 18th-century knowledge. none were more treasured than his books on architecture, and one man made a profound impression. andrea palladio had measured the ruins of ancient rome and re-created her buildings with his pen. from the books of robert morris and james gibbs, jefferson learns construction as well as design. then at the age of 24, he begins to envision and plan his mountaintop house in the blue ridge. self-taught, he does the palladian calculations
and drawings for what would be an art gallery, a library, and a house. the first monticello. a visitor from france said, mr. jefferson is the first american who has consulted the fine arts to know how he should shelter himself from the weather. in collecting what would become the finest library in america, his eye discovers another art form never before seen here in the wilderness... the sculpture of the ancient world. from his art books, he draws up a list of his favorites. the statues, for which he has designed a place at monticello.
though chosen from a picture in a book, she proves that jefferson, even as a young man, had come to appreciate the best. the "medici venus" was the first on his list. in the year 1784, jefferson observes life through the eyes oa widower, yet he is on a journey that may help lessen the pain of his loss, crossing the atlantic as an american diplomat to discover paris. "behold me at length on the vaunted scene of europe!" he wrote. "it is not necessary, for your information "that i should enter into details concerning it,
"but you are, perhaps, curious to know how the new scene has struck a savage of the mountains of america." "were i to proceed to tell you how much i enjoy their architectu, "sculpture, painting, music, "i should want words. it is in these arts they shine." "the hospitality of paris is beyond anything "i have conceid to be practicable in a large city," he writes.
his close friendship with lafayette's aunt madame de tesse brings him many times to her house for long talks on politics, architecture, gardening, art. and in his own townhouse... the hotel de langeac, jefferson entertains the leading figures of the city of paris. from here, he can look out over the champs-elysees and decide which part of the city he will explore next. about a mile away, he pauses often to watch the construction of a building that will become one of his favorites. "i was violently smitten by the hotel de salm," he later wrote. "sitting on the parapet each day, twisting my head around "to see the object of my admiration
i generally left with a stiff neck." there was a pure pleasure in watching the construction of the hotel de salm. but something else was happening on his long walks through the city. jefferson was storing up a reservoir of images that would echo in his memory for years. early in 1786, some friends take jefferson to a studio at the college of four nations to observe a sculptor. in sculpting the most famous men of europe, this man had become one himself: jean-antoine houdon. "he is the world's foremost artist," jefferson wrote to george washington.
"destined to consecrate to immortality famous men in every walk of life." after negotiations with jefferson, houdon travels to mount vernon to sculpt president washington, establishing for the first time in america the use of public money for art. mr. jefferson would also sit for houdon, and before leaving paris, he would see himself on display at the paris exhibition of 1789 in a building that he much admired... the louvre.
a treasure house. jefferson was here for 3 of the great paris exhibitions. the unerring eye, which had discovered houdon, now leads him to another artist, dangly inventive for his time. "i do not," he said, "feel an interest in any pencil but that of david. "the best thing here is his "death of socrates," and a superb one it is. in the same modern vein is a painting by a younger man drouais. "all paris is running to see it," said jefferson. it fixed me like a statue for a quarter of an hour."
in another part of the louvre was a painting of a structure that had already touched jefferson's life in a significant way. early in his stay in paris, the request had arrived at the hotel de langeac. a new capitol building in richmond was in need of an able architect. jefferson contacted charles-louis clerisseau, who had drawn the ruins at nimes in the south of france. with clerisseau's assistance, jefferson worked out the modifications that would turn a roman temple, the maison carree, into a modern public building. it would be the first american building designed to accommodate the 3 branches of a democratic government.
their plaster of paris model was shipped across the atlantic, along with jefferson's plans, to guide the builders on the banks of the james river in virginia. jefferson's inspiration was to give the fledgling state government a symbolic structure, thus launching the classic revival in the united states. "i have met a young man of increasing reputation," wrote jefferson in his fourth year in paris, "who proposes to employ himself solely in painting the events of the american war." john trumbull of connecticut, invited by jefferson to pursue his work at the hotel de langeac, they become friends. the central figure in trumbull's most famous painting is jefferson at 33.
his "declaration of independence" is being presented by the committee of 5 to the congress assembled in philadelphia. in paris, jefferson would sit with trumbull for hours, describing this room, even sketching the floor plan. he described the appearance and location of the members, remembering clearly the men with whom he had shared this moment. now, a decade later, the aging franklin had retired, and jefferson, the new minister, is urgently invited by john adams to come to london for negotiations with the british
jefferson has never gotten on with the english too well. "their architecture is in the most wretched style i ever saw," he says, "not meang to except america, where it is bad, nor even virginia, where it is worse." but the gardens of england are another matter. "the gardening in this country," he says, "is the article in which it surpasses all the earth." jefferson has read for years about these romantic places, where all nature seems to have been turned into a garden.
but it is in the parks of paris where jefferson's life will be, for a short time, transformed. he has met a young woman. his capitulation is complete. his love letters to he are unlike any other words he has ever written. "our friendship is precious," he writes, "not only in the shade but in the sunshine of life. "and on the days we have lately passed, "the sun has indeed shone brightly on the presence of my charming companion." she is maria cosway. at 27, she has a musical voice, an air of intelligence and sophistication... and a husband. they have met here, the halles aux bleds, where trumbull had introduced them
and jefferson had pronounced the design of the dome as "the most superb thing on earth." "how beautiful was every object!" he would write to her later. "the gardens of marly, the chateau, the statues, "the hills along the seine. "and recollect, too, bagatelle, the pavilion of louveciennes, he desert de retz... how well i remember them all." "how imprudent it is to place my affections without reserve. on an object i must so soon lose." "but every moment has been filled with something agreeable, "and the wheels of time have moved on "with the rapidity of which those of our carriage "gave but a faint idea.
what a mass of happiness have we traveled over!" "i feel more fit for death than for life... "but when i look back on the pleasures of which this is the consequence, i am conscious they were worth the price i am paying." jefferson's trip to the south of france just a few months' later may have been an attempt to put maria cosway out of his mind.
but it was also a business trip. he would see if it might be possible to transplant grapevines, olives, rice, and other useful plants to america. from the ancient city of nimes, he writes to madame de tesse. "from morn to night, i have been nourished with the remains of roman grandeur." "were i to attempt to give you the news i should tell you stories 1,000 years old." now it appears before his eyes for the first time.
his replica of this building that was put up in the time of the caesars is now coming into being again in the wilderness of virginia 4,000 miles away. in september, 1789, jefferson embarks for america, where he will continue to serve the new republic for 2 decades. on arrival, he learns that the nation's new capitol is to be carved out of the maryland and virginia forests on the banks of the potomac river. he immediately sends to the designer of washington
maps of european cities he has collected on his trip. a stream of suggestions and ideas for the new city flows from jefferson's pen. recalling paris, he suggests that rows of poplar trees be planted along pennsylvania avenue, enhancing the grand boulevard that will link the executive and legislative branches of the new government. he suggests that lots in the city be a minimum of 50 feet wide. he sketches several ideas of his own for the town, favoring a block plan running east and west at the confluence of the potomac and anacostia rivers.
when major pierre l'enfant lays his own wide radial streets over the blocks, there emerges the most famous city plan in america. jefferson now proposes a design competition for the president's house, submitting his own palladian entry anonymously. though he endorses the winning design by james hoban, when he takes up residence in this building a decade later as president, he immediately calls on architect benjamin latrobe to help him add terraces and a portico. again, jefferson finds many ways to improve the space in which he lives. designing, encouraging, collaborating, inspiring.
his most enduring monument celebrating his belief in the power of education and of the rights of man. instead of one great building containing everything and everybody, jefferson explained to latrobe, "we propose to build an academical village." perhaps there was a memory of marly when he went to his drawing board to lay out the grand design of the university of virginia. "this institution of my native state "will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind," he said.
♪ (red grooms) everybody thought he was the greatest. he was like a god. (fischl) he invented or developed a lot of ways of picturing the american experience, which becomes a metaphor for a bigger experience. (berman) he certainly was a realist in that he painted what he saw. his pictures are made out of facts certainly, but also memory and improvisation. (narrator) edward hopper didn't belong to a movement or a group or a school. the consummate outsider, he belonged to himself.