J. B. Fischer von Erlach Architecture as Theater in the Baroque Era Esther Gordon Dotson, Mark Richard Ashton

Publication date:
15 Mar 2012
Yale University Press
184 pages: 267 x 216mm
110 color + 110 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

Though little known in the English-speaking world, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach (1656-1723) was one of the most important and influential European baroque architects. The buildings that he designed for the emperor of Austria and his courtiers reveal an element of theatricality - an element that author Esther Gordon Dotson probes in this accessible and attractive volume. In his architectural designs, Fischer incorporated devices from ceremonial pageantry and scene design, controlled lighting effects, and a sense of dramatic progression in approaching and moving through a building.

Dotson identifies these various elements in her close reading of Fischer's structures, and splendid new photographs, taken by Mark Richard Ashton, bring them to life on the printed page. The author also delves into Fischer's past and his writings to explain how his awareness of architectural history and his early employment by designers of street-festival pageants and his relationships with others involved in such staged productions impacted his architectural designs. Dotson guides readers in discovering the theatrical qualities in Fischer's buildings, illuminating their conceptual liveliness, variety, drama, and enduring beauty.

At the time of her death in October 2009, Esther Gordon Dotson was professor emerita in the Department of the History of Art at Cornell University. Mark Richard Ashton is an independent scholar and photographer in Ithaca, New York.

“Aimed at ‘interested travellers and students’, Dotson’s book and Ashton’s photographs provide a lively, thoughtful and evocative introduction to the work of an architect who deserves to take his place alongside Bernini and Wren in the English-language canon.”—Gauvin Alexander Bailey, Burlington Magazine