(b. 1713, London, d. 1788, London)
English architect, archaeologist, and designer, also known as Athenian Stuart. He was born to a Scottish sailor who died when he was young. Proving a talented artist while his family was in poverty, he was apprenticed to a fan painter to support the family financially. However, in around 1742, he was able to travel to Italy (albeit on foot) for his artistic improvement, working there as a cicerone and a painter, learning Latin, Italian and Greek, and studying Italian and Roman art and architecture. There he met Nicholas Revett (1720-1804), a young East Anglian nobleman and amateur architect on his Grand Tour.
In 1748 Stuart joined Revett, Gavin Hamilton and the architect Matthew Brettingham the Younger (1725-1803) on a trip to Naples to study the ancient ruins and, from there, they travelled through the Balkans (stopping at Pula) to Greece. Visiting Salonica, Athens, and an Ionic temple on the River Ilissus among others, they made accurate measurements and drawings of the ancient ruins.
Stuart and Revett returned to London in 1755 and published their work, The Antiquities of Athens and Other Monuments of Greece, in 1762, which later helped fuel the Greek Revival in European architecture. Its illustrations were among the first of their kind and the work was welcomed by antiquaries, scholars, and gentleman amateurs. In 1758 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
On his return to England, he also acted as an interior designer, medal designer, and architect, creating the first tripod in metal since antiquity, building and remodeling country houses, garden buildings, and town houses (e.g. Shugborough Hall, Hagley Hall, Spencer House), creating book illustrations, designing commemorative medals and tomb monuments, and being appointed Surveyor to the Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich.
Stuart's more and more chaotic business practices attracted adverse comment from the late 1760s. Enemies even accused him of 'Epicureanism' in reference to his alcoholism and recent second marriage at 67 to Elizabeth, a maidservant of 20. He died suddenly in 1788.
Stuart's London buildings played some part in popularising Neoclassical taste. His four-volume book "Antiquities of Athens," co-written with Nicholas Revett, is considered the first accurate record of classical Greek architecture.