Love against all rules: The Scottish nobleman and the private secretary

James Ogilvy, 7th Earl of Findlater, had two passions – one was for landscape architecture, the other was for men. Circumstances to enjoy these passions were far from ideal: practising same-sex love in Britain in the 18th century was considered a crime punishable by death. Thus, James decided to leave Britain for good in 1791. As a consequence, he had to give his estates in the care of a trusty, and with it all possibilities of putting his architectural talents into action – or so it seemed.
James spent the 1790s travelling on the Continent. His unsteady life took an unexpected turn when he met a certain Johann Fischer in the year 1800.

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Robert Adam’s Bumpy Career Start

When budding star-architect Robert Adam returned from his Grand Tour in 1758, he needed to find clients for the glamorous style he had developed in Italy. He knew that only the very rich would be able to pay for the grandeur he designed. Thus, he and his brothers settled close to High Society. They set up their home first at St. James’s Place, then at Lower Grosvenor Street in London. It was most important for Robert to be regarded as a gentleman architect rather than a professional architect, as he feared that being the latter would lower his status to a mere craftsmen. Robert displayed the many sketches he had made in Italy in his home, while the drawing office was located at New Bond Street, ‘invisible’ for his clients.

It was difficult for the ambitious Adam brothers to find their first commissions. Aristocrats who hadn’t mind Robert’s company abroad in Italy weren’t willing to socialise with him in snobbish London. Eventually, two women were instrumental in starting the Adam brothers’ career.  Continue reading