The First Panorama, Circa 1790
For a brief period at the end of the 18th century, it seemed as though an Irish painter named Robert Barker had stumbled across an innovation of comparable significance. At some point in the mid-1780s, Barker took a stroll to the top of Calton Hill in Edinburgh. Standing near the current site of the Nelson Monument and gazing out over the city, Barker hit upon the idea of painting the entire 360-degree view by rotating a sequence of square frames around a fixed spot, sketching each part of the vista and then uniting them as a single wraparound image. (He had to invent a new technique to compensate for the visual distortions that appeared when painting on a concave surface.) Barker was granted a patent in 1787 for “an entire new Contrivance of Apparatus ... for the Purpose of displaying Views of Nature at large.” At the suggestion of a “classical friend,” Barker hit upon a name for his creation, drawing on the Greek phrase for “all-encompassing view.” He called it the Panorama.
From “Want to Know What Virtual Reality Might Become? Look to the Past.” by Steven Johnson for the New York Times Magazine, 2016; Painting by Robert Barker, circa 1790
#painting #panorama #panoramic #art #artist #Irish #Ireland #Edinburgh #360 #360degree #robertbarker #skyline #story #stories #thestorybar