'How can I by description give you any idea of the great pleasure I enjoyed in the sight of these ancient buildings of Athens!'
– Robert Smirke
In 1803 Robert Smirke (1780–1867), a young British architect, visited Athens to study ancient buildings – including the Parthenon – as part of his professional training.
At the time, Smirke was just one of many contemporary architects inspired by the simple splendour of ancient Greek buildings in Italy, Greece and Turkey. On his return to the UK from his travels, he went on to design numerous buildings in the highly fashionable Greek Revival style, including a new building for the British Museum in 1821.
This free display in Room 3 explored more about the rise of Greek Revival architecture through contemporary watercolours and contextual images. It was an opportunity to learn more about Smirke and view his original drawing of the Parthenon within the walls of the building he designed.
These displays were made possible by the support of The Asahi Shimbun Company, longstanding corporate sponsors of the British Museum. The Asahi Shimbun is a Japanese leading newspaper and the company also provides a substantial information service via the internet. The company has a century-long tradition of philanthropic support, notably staging key exhibitions in Japan on art, culture and history from around the world. In addition to the Asahi Shimbun Displays, The Asahi Shimbun Company is a committed supporter of the British Museum touring exhibition programme in Japan, and funder of The Asahi Shimbun Gallery of Amaravati sculpture in Room 33a.