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An Enlightened City and Distanced Observer: Early prospects of Glasgow by Slezer and the Foulis Academy

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Vee Pollock


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The Enlightenment years in Glasgow formed a crucial bridge between the medieval burgh and the burgeoning industrial heartland which earned the epithet of 'Second City' of Empire. In an epoch that saw Glasgow establish itself as a commercial and intellectual centre, the cityscape became a tangible signifier of its wealth. This article examines views of Glasgow by the artist John Slezer for his Theatrum Scotiae and those produced by the pupils of the Foulis Academy of Art and Design, founded in 1753. It focuses on the technique of distancing the viewer and argues that this was not merely a means to present a majestic prospect of the city, in which there was the illusion of a rational, scientific approach, but also a device through which mechanisms of control and the influence patronage were implicit. In addition, it examines the theories of beauty and the arbitrating figure found in the work of the contemporary Glasgow philosopher Francis Hutcheson and how they give this distancing further significance. Throughout it is argued that, paradoxically, by removing the viewer from the city, Glasgow artists fused topographical description and philosophical enquiry as a means to comprehend and get closer to a true representation of Enlightenment Glasgow.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pollock VL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of the Scottish Society of Art History

Year: 2002

Volume: 7

Pages: 71-79

ISSN (print): 1362-248X

Publisher: Scottish Society of Art History

Notes: Inaugural Student Essay Competition: winning essay