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[Unfinished?] drawing of interior showing upper walls and ceiling.[Unfinished?] drawing of interior showing upper walls and ceiling.

Robert Spencer Collection

Sketches from Europe by the 1891 Rotch Travelling Scholarship recipient

Robert Spencer was the 1891 recipient of the Rotch Travelling Scholarship. The award program was established in 1883 by the children of Benjamin S. Rotch and included funding for two years of travel in Europe. The recipient, in turn, was required to send envoi drawings back to Boston that would be exhibited and studied. In order to qualify for the scholarship at the time, applicants had to have worked in an architecture office in Massachusetts for at least two years and pass preliminary examinations in architectural history, freehand drawing, theory and practice of construction, and elementary French. Applicants would then enter a design competition that was judged by a special committee of the Boston Society of Architects. For more information, see the Rotch Travelling Scholarship records in the MIT Libraries Department of Distinctive Collections.

The Robert Spencer Collection includes a variety of drawings made by Spencer during his two years abroad. He visited England and Germany and spent a majority of his time in France and Italy. Many of the sketches are precisely dated and the place they were made is noted, making it possible to reconstruct Spencer’s itinerary. In France and Italy he visited well-known Roman sites such as the Pont du Gard and the ruins of Pompeii, medieval churches in Dijon and Assisi, and the collections of museums to document historic decorative arts. In addition to sketches of buildings and landscapes, Spencer also produced more precise measured drawings of architectural elements and building details such as doors, windows, and mosaic floors. Spencer was not a historicist architect, but working later in the Prairie Style he incorporated his observations from Europe into his designs, both in terms of specific architectural details—such as the half-timber construction he saw in Germany and England—and in the general effects of picturesque, irregular composition that he saw in the vernacular architecture of the places he visited while a Rotch Travelling Scholar.

Title: Robert Spencer Collection

Creator: Robert Closson Spencer Jr.

Dates: 1891–1893

Extent: 103 drawings

Language: English

Repository: MIT Museum

Reference code: 1993.050a

Access: Online and by appointment

Copyright: Some copyright restrictions may apply

Credit: Robert Spencer Collection, MIT Museum