Although James Wyatt's importance as the first post-Renaissance architect of national stature to specialize in the Gothic style has long been recognized, the underlying seriousness of his experiments has frequently been questioned. An examination of his activities during the relatively short period 1790-1797 makes it possible to understand his intentions with a greater degree of precision. The significance of his cathedral and church restorations (which provided the architect with valuable first-hand contact with medieval architectural antiquities) is confirmed and attention is also drawn to his awareness of contemporary advances in antiquarian research. In particular it is demonstrated that by 1794 Wyatt was familiar with the period's most authoritative published analysis on medieval architecture, the "architectural" section of James Bentham's History of Ely Cathedral. His assimilation of this source effectively confounded contemporary criticism that his Gothic experiments were conceived of in terms of ignorance of the medieval tradition.

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