The name pleorama was coined from Greek elements. Like other 19th century novelties ending in -orama – diorama and cyclorama, for instance – the second half of the word has the sense of ‘something seen’. The pleo- part here is understood to come from a Greek word meaning ‘float’ which applies to Langhans’ boat in water idea. Pleorama is also the 21st century name of an innovative “floating house”.
he best-known pleorama was a 19th-century moving panorama entertainment where the viewers sat in a rocking boat while panoramic views on painted canvas rolled past. The word has sometimes been used for other entertainments or innovations.
Architect Carl Ferdinand Langhans introduced a pleorama in Breslau in 1831 with scenes of the Bay of Naples on both sides of 24 “voyagers” sitting in a wooden boat floating in a pool of water. The illusion was enhanced by light and sound effects: the boatman singing, Vesuvius erupting. Writer/artist August Kopisch was involved in designing the hour-long show.
Carl Wilhelm Gropius, who had a diorama exhibit in Berlin, took over management of this pleorama in 1832, and there was also a pleorama of a journey along the river Rhine.
The Swiss writer Bernard Comment, among others, has pointed out the similarities between Langhans’ pleorama and the ambitious mareorama at the 1900 Paris Exhibition.
A similar idea was used for a London padorama in 1834. Spectators were seated in railway carriages to watch a moving panorama of scenes visible from the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.
In 1850s Finland the name pleorama was given to shows which presented historic scenes and panoramic views using glass, but posters for these do not mention anything resembling Langhans’ boat concept.
Panoramic paintings are massive artworks that reveal a wide, all-encompassing view of a particular subject, often a landscape, military battle, or historical event. They became especially popular in the 19th century in Europe and the United States, inciting opposition from some writers of Romantic poetry. A few have survived into the 21st century and are on public display.
In 1793 Barker moved his panoramas to the first purpose-built brick panorama rotunda building in the world, in Leicester Square, and made a fortune.
Viewers flocked to pay a stiff 3 shillings to stand on a central platform under a skylight, which offered an even lighting, and get an experience that was “panoramic” (an adjective that didn’t appear in print until 1813). The extended meaning of a “comprehensive survey” of a subject followed sooner, in 1801. Visitors to Barker’s Panorama of London, painted as if viewed from the roof of Albion Mills on the South Bank, could purchase a series of six prints that modestly recalled the experience; end-to-end the prints stretched 3.25 metres. In contrast, the actual panorama spanned 250 square metres.
Despite the success of Barker’s first panorama in Leicester Square, it was neither his first attempt at the craft nor his first exhibition. In 1788 Barker showcased his first panorama. It was only a semi-circular view of Edinburgh, Scotland, and Barker’s inability to bring the image to a full 360 degrees disappointed him. To realize his true vision, Barker and his son, Henry Aston Barker, took on the task of painting a scene of the Albion Mills. The first version of what was to be Barker’s first successful panorama was displayed in a purpose-built wooden rotunda in the back garden of the Barker home and measured only 137 square metres.
Barker’s accomplishment involved sophisticated manipulations of perspective not encountered in the panorama’s predecessors, the wide-angle “prospect” of a city familiar since the 16th century, or Wenceslas Hollar’s Long View of London from Bankside, etched on several contiguous sheets. When Barker first patented his technique in 1787, he had given it a French title: La Nature à Coup d’ Oeil (“Nature at a glance”). A sensibility to the “picturesque” was developing among the educated class, and as they toured picturesque districts, like the Lake District, they might have in the carriage with them a large lens set in a picture frame, a “landscape glass” that would contract a wide view into a “picture” when held at arm’s length.
Barker made many efforts to increase the realism of his scenes. To fully immerse the audience in the scene, all borders of the canvas were concealed. Props were also strategically positioned on the platform where the audience stood and two windows were laid into the roof to allow natural light to flood the canvases.
Two scenes could be exhibited in the rotunda simultaneously, however the rotunda at Leicester Square was the only one to do so. Houses with single scenes proved more popular to audiences as the fame of the panorama spread. Because the Leicester Square rotunda housed two panoramas, Barker needed a mechanism to clear the minds of the audience as they moved from one panorama to the other. To accomplish this, patrons walked down a dark corridor and up a long flight of stairs where their minds were supposed to be refreshed for viewing the new scene. Due to the immense size of the panorama, patrons were given orientation plans to help them navigate the scene. These glorified maps pinpointed key buildings, sites, or events exhibited on the canvas.
To create a panorama, artists travelled to the sites and sketched the scenes multiple times. Typically a team of artists worked on one project with each team specializing in a certain aspect of the painting such as landscapes, people or skies. After completing their sketches, the artists typically consulted other paintings, of average size, to add further detail. Martin Meisel described the panorama perfectly in his book Realizations: “In its impact, the Panorama was a comprehensive form, the representation not of the segment of a world, but of a world entire seen from a focal height.” Though the artists painstakingly documented every detail of a scene, by doing so they created a world complete in and of itself.
The first panoramas depicted urban settings, such as cities, while later panoramas depicted nature and famous military battles. The necessity for military scenes increased in part because so many were taking place. French battles commonly found their way to rotundas thanks to the feisty leadership of Napoleon Bonaparte. Henry Aston Barker’s travels to France during the Peace of Amiens led him to court, where Bonaparte accepted him. Henry Aston created panoramas of Bonaparte’s battles including The Battle of Waterloo, which saw so much success that he retired after finishing it. Henry Aston’s relationship with Bonaparte continued following Bonaparte’s exile to Elba, where Henry Aston visited the former emperor. Pierre Prévost (painter) (1764–1823) was the first important French panorama painter. Among his 17 panoramas, the most famous describe the cities of Rome, Naples, Amsterdam, Jerusalem, Athens and also the battle of Wagram.
Outside of England and France, the popularity of panoramas depended on the type of scene displayed. Typically, people wanted to see images from their own countries or from England. This principle rang true in Switzerland, where views of the Alps dominated. Likewise in America, New York City panoramas found popularity, as well as imports from Barker’s rotunda. As painter John Vanderlyn soon found out, French politics did not interest Americans. In particular, his depiction of Louis XVIII’s return to the throne did not live two months in the rotunda before a new panorama took its place.
Barker’s Panorama was hugely successful and spawned a series of “immersive” panoramas: the Museum of London’s curators found mention of 126 panoramas that were exhibited between 1793 and 1863. In Europe, panoramas were created of historical events and battles, notably by the Russian painter Franz Roubaud. Most major European cities featured more than one purpose-built structure hosting panoramas. These large fixed-circle panoramas declined in popularity in the latter third of the nineteenth century, though in the United States they experienced a partial revival; in this period, they were more commonly referred to as cycloramas.
The panorama competed for audiences most frequently with the diorama, a slightly curved or flat canvas extending 22 by 14 metres. The diorama was invented in 1822 by Louis Daguerre and Charles-Marie Bouton, the latter a former student of the renowned French painter Jacques-Louis David.
Unlike the panorama where spectators had to move to view the scene, the scenes on the diorama moved so the audience could remain seated. Accomplished with four screens on a roundabout, the illusion captivated 350 spectators at a time for a period of 15 minutes. The images rotated in a 73 degree arc, focusing on two of the four scenes while the remaining two were prepared, which allowed the canvases to be refreshed throughout the course of the show. While topographical detail was crucial to panoramas, as evidenced by the teams of artists who worked on them, the effect of the illusion took precedence with the diorama. Painters of the diorama also added their own twist to the panorama’s props, but instead of props to make the scenes more real, they incorporated sounds. Another similarity to the panorama was the effect the diorama had on its audience. Some patrons experienced a stupor, while others were alienated by the spectacle. The alienation of the diorama was caused by the connection the scene drew to art, nature and death. After Daguerre and Bouton’s first exhibition in London, one reviewer noted a stillness like that “of the grave.” To remedy this tomblike atmosphere Daguerre painted both sides of the canvas, known as “the double effect.” By lighting both painted sides of the canvas, light was transmitted and reflected producing a type of transparency producing the effect of time passing. This effect gave the crew operating the lights and turning the roundabout a new type of control over the audience than the panorama ever had.
In Britain and particularly in the US, the panoramic ideal was intensified by unrolling a canvas-backed scroll past the viewer in a Moving Panorama, an alteration of an idea that was familiar in the hand-held landscape scrolls of Song dynasty. First unveiled in 1809 in Edinburgh, Scotland, the moving panorama required a large canvas and two vertical rollers to be set up on a stage. Peter Marshall added the twist to Barker’s original creation, which saw success throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. The scene or variation of scenes passed between the rollers, eliminating the need to showcase and view the panorama in a rotunda. A precursor to “moving” pictures, the moving panorama incorporated music, sound effects and stand-alone cut-outs to create their mobile effect. Such a traveling motion allowed for new types of scenes, such as chase sequences, that could not be produced so well in either the diorama or the panorama. In contrast specifically to the diorama, where the audience seemed to be physically rotated, the moving panorama gave patrons a new perspective, allowing them to “[function] as a moving eye”.
Romantic criticism of panoramas
The panorama’s rise in popularity was a result of its accessibility in that people did not need a certain level of education to enjoy the views it offered. Accordingly, patrons from across the social scale flocked to rotundas throughout Europe.
While easy access was an attraction of the panorama, some people believed it was nothing more than a parlor trick bent on deceiving its public audience. Designed to have a lingering effect upon the viewer, the panorama was placed in the same category as propaganda of the period, which was also seen as deceitful. The locality paradox also attributed to the arguments of panorama critics. A phenomenon resulting from immersion in a panorama, the locality paradox happened when people were unable to distinguish where they were: in the rotunda or at the scene they were seeing.
Writers feared the panorama for the simplicity of its illusion. Hester Piozzi was among those who rebelled against the growing popularity of the panorama for precisely this reason. She did not like seeing so many people – elite and otherwise – fooled by something so simple.
Another problem with the panorama was what it came to be associated with, namely, by redefining the sublime to incorporate the material. In their earliest forms, panoramas depicted topographical scenes and in so doing, made the sublime accessible to every person with 3 shillings in his or her pocket. The sublime became an everyday thing and therefore, a material commodity. By associating the sublime with the material, the panorama was seen as a threat to romanticism, which was obsessed with the sublime. According to the romantics, the sublime was never supposed to include materiality and by linking the two, panoramas tainted the sublime.
The poet William Wordsworth has long been characterized as an opponent of the panorama, most notably for his allusion to it in Book Seven of The Prelude. It has been argued that Wordsworth’s problem with the panorama was the deceit it used to gain popularity. He felt, critics say, that the panorama not only exhibited an immense scene of some kind, but also the weakness of human intelligence. Wordsworth was offended by the fact that so many people found panoramas irresistible and concluded that people were not smart enough to see through the charade. Because of his argument in “The Prelude,” it is safe to assume Wordsworth saw a panorama at some point during his life, but it is unknown which one he saw; there is no substantial proof he ever went, other than his description in the poem.
However, Wordsworth’s hatred of the panorama was not limited to its deceit. The panorama’s association with the sublime was likewise offensive to the poet as were other spectacles of the period that competed with reality. As a poet, Wordsworth sought to separate his craft from the phantasmagoria enveloping the population. In this context, phantasmagoria refers to signs and other circulated propaganda, including billboards, illustrated newspapers and panoramas themselves. Wordsworth’s biggest problem with panoramas was their pretense: the panorama lulled spectators into stupors, inhibiting their ability to imagine things for themselves. Wordsworth wanted people to see the representation depicted in the panorama and appreciate it for what it was – art.
Conversely, some critics argue Wordsworth was not opposed to the panorama, but was rather hesitant about it. A main argument is that other episodes in The Prelude have just as much sensory depth as panoramas had. Such depth could only be accomplished through imitation of the human senses, something both the panorama and The Prelude succeed at. Therefore, since both the panorama and The Prelude imitate the senses, they are equal and suggest Wordsworth was not entirely opposed to panoramas.
A modern take on the panorama believes the enormous paintings filled a hole in the lives of those who lived during the nineteenth century. Bernard Comment said in his book The Painted Panorama, that the masses needed “absolute dominance” and the illusion offered by the panorama gave them a sense of organization and control. Despite the power it wielded, the panorama detached audiences from the scene they viewed, replacing reality and encouraging them to watch the world rather than experience it.
The moving panorama was a relative, more in concept than design, to panoramic painting, but proved to be more durable than its fixed and immense cousin. In the mid-nineteenth century, the moving panorama was among the most popular forms of entertainment in the world, with hundreds of panoramas constantly on tour in the United Kingdom, the United States, and many European countries. Moving panoramas were often seen in melodramatic plays. It became a new visual element to theatre and helped incorporate a more realistic quality. Not only was it a special effect on stage, but it also served as an ancestor and platform to early cinema.
The word “panorama” is derived from the Greek words “to see” and “all.” Robert Barker, an Irish-born scene painter, coined the term with his first panorama of Edinburgh, displayed in a specially built rotunda in Leicester Square in 1791. This attraction was extremely popular amongst the middle and lower classes for the way it was able to offer the illusion of transport for the viewer to a completely different location that they had most likely never seen.
Panoramic paintings and the various offshoots had become so in demand across Europe and America by the early nineteenth century that the enormous paintings had begun to be displayed in less specialized settings, like community halls, churches, and eventually theaters where they evolved into moving panoramas and became essential to theatrical set design. Moving panoramas were achieved by taking the long, continuous painted canvas scene and rolling each end around two large spool-type mechanisms that could be turned, causing the canvas to scroll across the back of a stage, often behind a stationary scenic piece or object like a boat, horse, or vehicle, to create the illusion of movement and travelling through space. The immense spools were scrolled past the audience behind a cut-out drop-scene or proscenium which hid the mechanism from public view. Robert Fulton obtained a patent for the panorama in 1799 in France; he is credited with helping create the spool mechanisms that allowed for the moving panorama to take hold in theatrical set design, combining the technology of the Industrial Revolution and art for profit, very much a nineteenth century idea.
However, these paintings were not true panoramas, but rather contiguous views of passing scenery, as if seen from a boat or a train window. Unlike panoramic painting, the moving panorama almost always had a narrator, styled as its “Delineator” or “Professor”, who described the scenes as they passed and added to the drama of the events depicted. One of the most successful of these delineators was John Banvard, whose panorama of a trip up (and down) the Mississippi River had such a successful world tour that the profits enabled him to build an immense mansion, lampooned as “Banvard’s Folly”, built on Long Island in imitation of Windsor Castle. In Britain, showmen such as the durable Moses Gompertz toured the provinces with a variety of such panoramas from the 1850s until well into the 1880s.
These moving panoramas were readily accepted in New York, where Americans loved the melodramatic genre of plays, which made use of the newest technologies and relied on spectacle. William Dunlap, America’s first theatre historian, professional playwright, and a painter himself, was commissioned by the Bowery Theatre in New York in 1827 to write, somewhat reluctantly, A Trip to Niagara: or Travellers in America: A Farce, a satirical social comedy, specifically for an already existing painting of a steamboat journey up the Hudson River to the base of Niagara Falls, named the “Eidophusikon.” The production was extremely popular, not for the play, but for the spectacular moving scenery.
The concept of early cinema, “moving pictures,” is a direct evolution of the concept of a moving panorama. The first use of the scrolling background concept early on in film was rear projection. This technique, for example, was used when stationary actors were filming in a car that wasn’t actually moving, but instead had a projection of changing locales behind on the rear window to create the illusion that the car was moving, a trope often used in Hitchcock movies. Today, we have much more realistic computer technology to create this illusion of movement, but the image of a stationary object or actor in front of a changing background harkens back to the moving panorama scroll. Moving projections of clouds or passing objects on cycloramas at the back of a stage sometimes seen in modern live theater productions also utilize the illusion of seamless movement behind a stationary object that was popularized by the moving panorama of the nineteenth century.
Source From Wikipedia