Immersion, Chromatics, and Atmospheric Effects: Recalling Period Perception in Turrell’s Celestial Vault and Mesdag’s Panorama

Molly Catherine Briggs

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The nineteenth-century panorama consisted of a 360-degree painting rendered at the scale of architecture to provide virtual experiences at the scale of landscape. The medium’s period effects are especially accessible at the Mesdag Panorama (1881)in the Hague, Netherlands. And while the sailing ships and maritime activity that Hendrik Willem Mesdag (Dutch, 1831-1915) depicted in his immersive view of the nearby seaside village and dunes at Scheveningen have passed into history, today a similarly naturalistic landscape of vegetated dunes lies just a few miles southwest, at Kijkduin. The views afforded by this broadly horizontal landscape share numerous characteristics with the virtual views inside Mesdag’s panorama. Indeed, Kijkduin’s panoramic character motivated an immersive twentieth-century earthwork by the American land artist James Turrell (American,b. 1943). Celestial Vault (1996) directs the viewer’s attention toward the sky, whereas panoramas direct the view across a virtual ground plane, but Turrell’s project nevertheless demonstrates many of the key elements of panoramic experience.Landscape historian John Stilgoe defines that culture of looking as the study of “chromatics.” This paper distills a period interest in perceiving perception that enlivened the Mesdag Panorama(and others like it) and informs Turrell’s ongoing investigation of the same issues.
    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)60-68
    JournalJournal of the International Panorama Council
    StatePublished - 2018

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