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Briggs, Martin S.

    Full Name: Briggs, Martin S.

    Other Names:

    • Martin Shaw Briggs

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1882

    Date Died: 1977

    Place Born: Yorkshire, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): architecture (object genre), Baroque, and sculpture (visual works)


    Architectural historian; his Baroque Architecture (1913) was one of the early texts to favorably treat the subject. Briggs was born to a Congregational minister, Rev. G. S. Briggs. After attending Mill Hill School, north London, and Leeds University, he moved to London to practice architecture. There he became a member of the RIBA in 1905, designing several buildings and lecturing at the Bartlett School of Architecture, London University. He published a travelogue, In the Heel of Italy in 1910, and married Constance Rose. In 1913 he wrote and issued an architectural history on what was still a maligned period, Baroque. Throughout the nineteenth century, historians viewed 16th-century architecture as decadent. Baroque Architecture was translated into German. During World War I he served in Palestine and Egypt. However, after he returned he abandoned the architecture to become an inspector of the technical schools. He retired from the Board of Education in 1945. A classicist by sympathy and training, he disapproved of modern architecture which gained force after the war. He served as Vice President of the RIBA between 1952 and 1954.Briggs’ Baroque Architecture stands as one of the early sympathetic treatments of a period of architecture generally maligned, especially in the English-speaking world. When he wrote his text, many art historians considered the style decadent, unworthy of discussion. In this, he followed German-writing art historians, such as Heinrich Wölfflin, Cornelius Gurlitt, and August Schmarsow. It was only with the 5th edition of The Architecture of the Renaissance in Italy by William J. Anderson, updated by Arthur James Stratton in 1929 that Baroque architecture received a serious treatment in the English press.

    Selected Bibliography

    Baroque Architecture. London: T.F. Unwin, 1913; The Homes of the Pilgrim Fathers in England and America (1620-1685). London/New York: Oxford University Press, 1932; A Short History of the Building Crafts. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1925; Wren, the Incomparable. London: Allen & Unwin, 1953.


    mentioned, “Wohl, Helmut. “Robert Chester Smith and the History of Art in the United States.” in, Sala, Dalton, and Tamen, Pedro, et al. Robert C. Smith, 1912-1975: A investigação na História de Arte/ Research in History of Art. Lisbon: Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, 2000, p. 24, mentioned; [obituary:] “Mr Martin Shaw Briggs.” Times (London) October 21, 1977, p. 16.


    "Briggs, Martin S.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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