"The First Panoramas" is a cultural history of the first three decades of the panorama, a three-hundred-sixty-degree visual medium patented by the artist Robert Barker in Britain in 1787. A towering two-story architectural construction inside which spectators gazed on a 10,000-square-foot painting, Barker s new technology was designed to create an impression of total verisimilitude for the observer.
In the beautifully illustrated "The First Panoramas," Denise Blake Oleksijczuk demonstrates the complexity of the panoramas history and cultural impact, exploring specific exhibits: "View of Edinburgh and the Adjacent Country from the Calton Hill" (1788), "View of London from the Roof of the Albion Mill" (1791), "View of the Grand Fleet Moored at Spithead" (1793), and the two different versions of "View of Constantinople" (1801). In addition to the art itself, she examines the panoramas intriguing descriptive keys single-sheet diagrams that directed spectators to important sites in the representation, which evolved over time to give the observer greater perceptual control over the view.
Using the surviving evidence, much of it never published before, on the early exhibitions of these massive installations, Oleksijczuk reconstructs the relationships between specific paintings, their accompanying printed guides, and the collective experiences of different audiences. She argues that by transporting its spectators to increasingly distant locations, first in the city and country and then in the world beyond Britain s borders, the panorama created a spatial and temporal disjunction between here and there that helped to forge new national and social identities."
The First Panoramas
University of Minnesota Press
Visions of British Imperialism