Eclecticism (18th-19th Century)

Eclectism was characterized by the revival and blending of previous styles including: Chippendale Style, Hepplewhite Style, Sheraton Style, Biedermeier Style, Louis Philippe Style, Victorian Style,  Regency Style and Second Empire Style.

U.S. Capitol building
U.S. Capitol Building

Image Source: by Gage Skidmore

Even though this art movement might not be recognized as a separate style in the world of design, for many people eclecticism is still perceived as a separate and distinct movement.

The first person who has brought the term “eclectic” into the world is presumed to be Johan Joachim Winckelmann (German art historian and archaeologist.). This term was used for the work of Carracci, who created his painting combining classical tradition with the elements of the Renaissance.

Annibale Carracci, Vénus, Adonis et Cupidon (vers 1590), huile sur toile, 212 x 268 cm - Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado
by Annibale Carracci, Vénus, Adonis et Cupidon (vers 1590), huile sur toile, 212 x 268 cm – Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado

Image source: by Héliodore

The eclectic style it is characterized by the fact that it is not a particular style. It is the borrowing of a variety of styles, ideas, and theories, drawn from different periods and different origins and combining them within a single project.

A lot of effort, thoughts, and creativity is necessary to make the project, in eclectic style, look logically interconnected.

More than just throwing everything together, eclectic design works to make all these different styles work cohesively.

Elements are thoughtfully connected with the other parts of the style in the space.

Colors, fabric, and finish tend to be neutral to further help these different influences come together and avoid the chaotic look with the other features of the design.

Palace of Justice, Rome
The Palace of Justice, Rome, Designed by the Perugia architect Guglielmo Calderini and built between 1888 and 1910.

Image source: by Gary Lee Todd, Ph.D.


Contemporary context

In contemporary society, styles that echo many different cultural and historical styles are described as “eclectic” although references to eclectic architecture within literature and media usually relate to buildings constructed within the eclectic movement of the period between the end of the 19th-and the beginning of the 20th century.


Main Eclectic Architects

  • Daniel Burnham
  • Alexander Jackson Davis
  • Antoni Gaudì
  • Josef Hlavka
  • Richard Morris Hunt
  • Charles Follen McKim
  • William Mead
  • Richard Norman Shaw
  • Stanford White
Sagrada Familia
Sagrada Familia, Gaudì, 1882-1926, Barcelona

Image source: by neusitas

Parc Guell
Houses in Park Güell designed by Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona, Spain

Image source: by jazonz


Eclecticism in art

Eclecticism is seen as a kind of mixed style in the fine arts:

“borrowing and combining a variety of styles from different sources” (Hume 1998,5)

Even in art, eclecticism has rarely constituted a specific style: it is the combination of elements of different historical styles in architecture, painting, graphic and decorative arts.

AgostinoAnnibale, and Lodovico Carracci had tried to combine in their art the symmetry and grace of Raphael, the line of Michelangelo, the chiaroscuro of Correggio, the color of Titian.

Italy-3225 - The Last Judgement
The Last Judgement- Vatican City, Sistine Chapel frescoes

Image source: by archer10 (Dennis)

Lady Cockburn and her Three Eldest Sons
Joshua Reynolds, Lady Cockburn and Her Three Eldest Sons, 1773, oil on canvas.

Image source: by DJANDYW.COM

One of the most influential supporters of eclecticism in the 18th century was the head of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Sir Joshua Reynolds, who is one of his famous academical Discourses (1774), argued that the painter could use the work of the ancients as a

“joint magazine, always open to the public, from which every man can take all the material he wants” (Reynolds 1775).

In music, the term used can be eclecticism or polystylism.


Eclectic Architecture

  • Use of forms of various historical styles (Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Rococo, etc.)
  • ‘Freedom of choice’ of architectural and ornamental motifs.
  • It tended towards the creation of large urban ensembles in the “Russian” or “European” style.
  • Facade eclectic style architecture, despite some fragmentation and monotonous repetition of parts, gave the front of the building a huge relief and charm.


Gloucester Lodge - The Esplanade, Weymouth
Esplanade in Weymouth, Regency style example

Image source: by ell brown

The Esplanade is a wide walkway and seafront street in Weymouth, Dorset on the south coast of England.

La Salle, IL. Hegeler Carus Mansion, c. 1876- The attic is the key feature that generally allows quick identification. It often includes dormers on the upper level, providing light behind the mansard roof. The floor plan includes pavilions, which are outward projections of the center or sides of a building.

File:Hegeler-Carus Mansion (8765254143).jpg
La Salle, IL. Hegeler Carus Mansion, c. 1876

Image source:


Eclectic Interior design

  1. Charming, unique, irregular, creative atmosphere.
  2. Line, mass, texture, color, and form are the basic principle that is combined in a way to create a harmonious eclectic interior space.
  3. Two or more styles are used in the same room.
  4. Furniture and accessories used are from different design styles and periods.
  5. Design styles are balanced in proportional size.
  6. Neutral colors.
Nostell Priory, State Dressing Room
Chippendale style interior- Nostell Priory, State Dressing Room

Image source: by David Dixon

hepplewhite chair
hepplewhite chair

Image source: by vaetter5205

File:Elizabeth Curtis, Hepplewhite Arm Chair, 1936, NGA 20036.jpg
Elizabeth Curtis, Hepplewhite Arm Chair, 1936

Image source: by Elizabeth Curtis

Easy chair, Mahogany, American
Easy chair, Mahogany, American

Image source:


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