Explore Past Exhibits
This image gallery explores the unstable place of the camera obscura in Romantic visual culture and offers a critical revision of Jonathan Crary’s central thesis in Techniques of the Observer (1990). In this text, Crary contends that the camera obscura is a model of rational, disembodied vision that is later subsumed by a modern, subjective mode of observation.
The artwork of Sir George Back, Royal Navy explorer of the Canadian Arctic, invites our reexamination of the paradigms of Romantic visual culture via its depiction of the “otherness” that the Arctic represented to the British during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as the difficulty of physically navigating that landscape.
In the eighteenth century, ruins all over the world were being rediscovered and reinterpreted aesthetically as their popularity and their importance as artistic subjects increased. An increase in travel and travel literature exposed British society to ruins both local and foreign, spurring interest in capturing their picturesque nature.
Lucy Kimiko Hawkinson Traverse
Epitomized by Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Watching a Sea of Fog (c. 1817-18), and the Wordsworthian peripatetic, the gentlemanly or artistic wanderer is integral to the Romantic imagination. Wandering lies at the heart of picturesque sightseeing, blank verse poetry, specimen collecting, and the Romantic cultivation of self.
This gallery explores how James Gillray’s caricatures of women convey the paradoxical nature of feminine power in Romantic culture. To effect his satire, Gillray utilizes ironic presentations that juxtapose discrepant images, imply a discrepancy between image and word, or create discrepancy by inverting traditional connotations of an image, person, or event.
Romantic London is a city of spectacles: from Bartholomew Fair to Covent Garden, from the Great Exhibition Hall to the Royal Academy. These spectacles serve as both the location and occasion for a wide range of viewing practices and interactions, as spectators turn their gaze from the stage and exhibit to the boxes and crowds.