The Panorama

  • Gillen D’Arcy Wood

Abstract

In the late 1780s, printselling magnate John Boydell launched his Shakespeare Gallery project as a commercially viable forum for British history painting. By employing native painters such as Reynolds, Opie, and Northcote to illustrate scenes from the plays of the national bard, Boydell hoped to engineer a renaissance in British art. He commissioned a suitably august, neo-classical home for the proposed collection of nationalist painting: a “mock-public building” complete with Grecian columns and decorative statuary.1 The true engine-room of Boydell’s operation, the printshop, was discretely sequestered next door. The iconography of the Shakespeare Gallery’s façade was a far cry from the gaudy monoliths of the Egyptian Hall that Leigh Hunt would later find so “uncouth.” Unlike Bullock’s downmarket museum, the marble entablature of the Gallery advertised a commitment to highbrow neo-classical academic principles: it depicted Shakespeare himself, reclining languidly on a rock (in Georgian breeches), receiving the attentions of the Muses of poetry and painting. These attendant figures marked the Gallery’s consecration of poetry and painting as “sister arts.”

Keywords

Royal Academy Panoramic View Visual Culture Visual Imagination Romantic Poet 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Morris Eaves, The Counter-Arts Conspiracy: Art and Industry in the Age of Blake (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992), 52. For a comprehensive account of the gallery’s history and contents, see also The Boydell Shakespeare Gallery, ed. Frederick Burwick and Walter Pape (Bottrop: Peter Pomp, 1996).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Works (London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, 1809), 318.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Richard Altick’s The Shows of London (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978) is the most comprehensive of these, but other important archival sources include Ralph Hyde’s Gilded Scenes and Shining Prospects: Panoramic Views of British Towns 1575–1900 (New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 1985), and from the same author, Panoramanial: the Art and Entertainment of the All-Embracing View (London: Trefoil Publications, 1988). A monumental survey by German scholar Stephan Oettermann (Munich, 1980) has recently appeared in an English translation, as has Bernard Comment’s Panorama (Paris, 1993). These important studies, in addition to a lesser-known title, The Panorama Phenomenon, ed. Evelyn Fruitema and Paul Zoetmulder (The Hague, 1981), promise to serve as a definitive resource for future, much-needed comparative work on the panoramas. The interest of Anglo-American literary scholars in British panoramas originated with Marilyn Gaulis English Romanticism (New York: W. W. Norton, 1988), 84–85, followed in the 1990s by a succession of MLA panels and the stimulating analyses of William Galperin and Ross King (see bibliography).Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    Reflections, ed. Peter Demetz (New York: Schocken Books), 150.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    The Arcades Project, trans. Howard Eiland and Kevin McLaughlin (Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press, 1999), 532.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
    C. R. Leslie, A Handbook for Young Painters (London: John Murray, 1855), 4, quoted in The Shows of London, 134.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    See The Shows of London, 132. James Northcote relates that Reynolds “was a prodigious admirer of the inventions and striking effect of the Panorama in Leicester-Fields, and went repeatedly to see it. He was the first person who mentioned it to me, and earnesdy recommended me to go also, saying it would surprise me more than anything I had ever seen in my life.” The Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds, 2nd ed. (London: Henry Colburn, 1818), 2:242. Reynolds’ reaction contrasts to the profound ambivalence of Wordsworth and Constable. It must be said, however, that Reynolds was quite blind by 1789 and never lived to see the type of clientele the panorama ultimately attracted.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    “Panorama.” Dictionnaire historique de l’architecture (Paris, 1832), 2:200 [my translation].Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Charles Leslie, Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, R.A., ed. Andrew Shirley (London: Phaidon Press, 1937), 24n.Google Scholar
  10. 14.
    John Constable: Correspondence, ed. R. B. Beckett (Ipswich: Suffolk Records Society, 1964), 2:34.Google Scholar
  11. 15.
    Discourses on Art, ed. Robert Wark (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 42.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    “Lecture 13 (On Poesy or Art),” The Literary Remains of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, ed. H. N. Coleridge (London: William Pickering, 1836; rpt. New York: AMS Press, 1967), 1:220.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Burke’s claim that “we have a pleasure in imitating, and in whatever belongs to imitation merely as it is such, without any intervention of the reasoning faculty” may be traced to chapter 4 of the Poetics. A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 45. For Plato’s contrary opinion, which Reynolds and Wordsworth echo, see chapter 2.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Three Essays: On Picturesque Beauty, On Picturesque Travel, On Sketching Landscape, with a Poem, “On Landscape Painting” (London, 1791), 56.Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    “Preface” to Lyrical Ballads (1800), Wordsworth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads, ed. R. L. Brett and A. R. Jones (London, Routledge, 1991), 249.Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    John Barrell, Poetry, Language, and Politics (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), 156.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    Karl Kroeber, Romantic Landscape Vision: Constable and Wordsworth (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1975), 29, 106.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    The Panorama, trans. Anne-Marie Glasheen. (London: Reaktion Books, 1999), 8.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    Wordsworth and the Figurings of the Real (London: Macmillan, 1982), 59.Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    10 January 1792; quoted by Hubert J. Pragnell, The London Panoramas of Robert Barker and Thomas Girtin circa 1800 (London: Topographical Society 1968), 12.Google Scholar
  21. 28.
    William Wordsworth: The Borders of Vision (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982), 29.Google Scholar
  22. 30.
    “The Reality Effect,” French Literary Theory Today, ed. Tzvetan Todorov (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 12.Google Scholar
  23. 32.
    Gotthold Lessing, Laocoön, trans. Ellen Frothingham (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1910), 43 [translation modified].Google Scholar
  24. 33.
    Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1986), 105–6; Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry, 158–61.Google Scholar
  25. 34.
    “On Poetry in General,” The Complete Works, ed. P. P. Howe (New York: AMS Press, 1967), 5:10.Google Scholar
  26. 35.
    Literary Remains, 1:217; see also the celebrated passage from Shelley’s “Defence of Poetry”: “For language is arbitrarily produced by the Imagination, and has relation to thoughts alone; but all other materials, instruments and conditions of art, have relations among each other, which limit and interpose between conception and expression. The former is as a mirror which reflects, the latter as a cloud which enfeebles, the light of which both are mediums of communication. Hence the fame of sculptors, painters and musicians, although the intrinsic powers of the great masters of these arts, may yield in no degree to that of those who have employed language as the hieroglyphic of their thoughts, has never equalled that of poets….” Shelley’s Poetry and Prose, ed. Donald H. Reiman and Sharon B. Powers (New York: W W Norton, 1977), 483.Google Scholar
  27. 36.
    A Collection of Descriptions of Views Exhibited at the Panorama, Leicester Square, and Painted by H.A. Barker, Robert Burford, John Burford and H. C. Selous, London, 1798–1856 (London: British Library).Google Scholar
  28. 39.
    Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken Books, 1966), 233, 238.Google Scholar
  29. 41.
    William Galperin, The Return of the Visible in British Romanticism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), 94.Google Scholar
  30. 42.
    John Barrell, The Political Theory of Painting from Reynolds to Hazlitt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 69–81.Google Scholar
  31. 43.
    Sir Joshua Reynolds, Portraits, ed. F. R. Hilles (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1952), 145.Google Scholar
  32. 44.
    Works, ed. Edward Malone (London, 1798), 162, quoted in James Northcote, The Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds (London: Henry Colburn, 1818), 78.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gillen D’Arcy Wood 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gillen D’Arcy Wood

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations