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The First Panoramas

Visions of British Imperialism

2011
Author:

Denise Blake Oleksijczuk

The First Panoramas

Exploring the 360-degree panorama: the late eighteenth-century origins of immersive visual spectacle

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 British artist Robert Barker in 1787. Denise Blake Oleksijczuk demonstrates the complexity of the panoramas’ history and cultural impact, exploring specific exhibits and reconstructing the relationships between the paintings, their accompanying printed guides, and their different audiences.

During the last decade the new field of panorama studies has achieved a great deal, though many accounts of this important and elusive form of visual representation are still marked by misleading generalizations. Denise Blake Oleksijczuk’s impressive The First Panoramas carries panorama research to a new level of material and historical specificity. Clearly it is a work that will be indispensable for anyone studying this topic and readers will be rewarded by its exemplary combination of archival investigation and theoretical reflection.

Jonathan Crary, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Art and Theory, Columbia University

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 their 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

Denise Blake Oleksijczuk is associate professor in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.

The First Panoramas

During the last decade the new field of panorama studies has achieved a great deal, though many accounts of this important and elusive form of visual representation are still marked by misleading generalizations. Denise Blake Oleksijczuk’s impressive The First Panoramas carries panorama research to a new level of material and historical specificity. Clearly it is a work that will be indispensable for anyone studying this topic and readers will be rewarded by its exemplary combination of archival investigation and theoretical reflection.

Jonathan Crary, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Art and Theory, Columbia University

The First Panoramas is a substantial and fascinating book that offers new ways of looking at the panoramic culture of early nineteenth century Britain. It combines a very detailed historical analysis with readings of individual panoramic works.

Lynda Nead, Birkbeck University of London

Beautifully illustrated, useful, full of specifics, The First Panoramas takes the study of panoramas to a new level with its original research.

SirReadaLot.org

I would recommend Oleksijczuk's book to anyone who has picked up the fascination with what Ralph Hyde has dubbed "panoramania" -- and it would be a valuable addition to any library with a commitment to holdings in the history of art, and of mass culture, between and within which the panorama lies.

The Arctic Book Review

Oleksijczuk has made a remarkable contribution to British life and art in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The result is a handsome cloth book, aimed at art and social historians, a valuable contribution to the growing interest in panorama studies, and a must have for art libraries.

ARLIS/ NA

The First Panoramas is a well-written and richly-illustrated analytical account of development of the panorama.

Journal of Historical Geography

No other book on the medium of the panorama has examined its first decades as closely and contextually as Denise Blake Oleksijczuk’s The First Panoramas.

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

This is an enjoyable book to read, a model for other scholars, and it should prove a delight to everyone who might be interested in this strange but highly important phenomenon in cultural history.

Winterthur Portfolio

The First Panoramas

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Robert and Henry Aston Barker’s Panorama
1. Nature at a Glance
2. Selling the Panorama to London
3. The King and Queen Visit the Panorama
4. The Views of Constantinople
5. The Keys to Panoramas
Appendix
Notes
Bibliography
Index