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New Forms of Art

New ArtUrban life in 19th Century London
One significant feature of London and the city in general for artists and poets at this time lies in the fact that the city provides a useful site the display of new types of artwork. In London, various artists would display their work for the public, allowing the citizens of London to view and appreciate the changing artistic terrain. One unique development of this age was the advent of panoramic visual art. On particularly important work was English artist Thomas Girtin's work the Eidometropolis, a massive painting that presented a circular panoramic view of London. This work was designed in order give the impression of being surrounded by the city while showing an extended view of the London cityscape. The work was inspired by Philip James de Loutherburg's Eidophusikon which presented the image of a ship in a stormy sea, using pulleys to simulate the movement of the ship through the sea. This artwork was regarded as awe-inspiring at the time.

Critics have noted that this type of art may have had an effect on the production of Romantic poetry. One thing these poets were invested in was presenting broad views of both abstract concepts and concrete settings. Viewing such visual art could have altered the ways these poets viewed, considered, and then portrayed the settings around them. Critics James Chandler and Kevin Gilmartin have noted that Wordsworth's poem "Composed upon Westminster Bridge" coincided with a display of Girtin's Eidometropolis in London. This poem presents a panoramic view of London in the early morning hours. These critics argue that this display of the Eidometropolis was a likely influence on the way that this scene is conveyed in the poem. Viewing this work of art had the potential to change the way Wordsworth observed the scene that inspired the composition of this poem. The fact that artistic displays in the city enabled these poets to have access to new visual works indicates the extent to which urban life placed poets into contact with inspirations for new aesthetic approaches for expressing the visual in poetry.

Brandon Haynes

Select Bibliography

Romantic Metropolis. Eds. James Chandler and Kevin Gilmartin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.