Sentimental Landscapes

We’ve just spent an interesting afternoon visiting an exhibition at Shandy Hall, the former home of Laurence Sterne, writer of Tristram Shandy and A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.

Entitled Sentimental Landscapes, it explores the world of 19th century “endless landscapes” or myriorama. Long, oblong panoramic landscapes are sliced vertically into rectangular segments. The picture is cleverly drawn so that the segments  can be rearranged in any order. There are often millions of possible rearrangements of a myriorama.

As part of the exhibition, Guardian cartoonist Tom Gauld has been commissioned to create a modern example, in the spirit of Laurence Sterne. One can play at rearranging parts of it online.

Three things strike me. Firstly, it turns out to be far more intriguing to play with a “real” cardboard myriorama than to play with one online, fun though that is. The cardboard versions have an uncanny quality. They remind me of tarot cards and of the glossy, coloured prints in old history books. Secondly, I’m struck by the similarities between the interactive nature of myriorama and modern computer games – probably because, only yesterday, one of my sons demonstrated to me the workings of The Stanley Parable. Finally, even though one would expect it to be the case, one cannot help but be struck with the way the pictures reflect the preoccupations of the times they were made: picturesque scenes featuring hills woods, lakes and -of course- ruins as one might imagine them to be on the continent. An internet image search throws up numerous examples.

After I’d first written this post, I went and practised the Haydn piano sonata I blogged about the other week. A minute or two into my playing it struck me how a young woman -most likely a woman- living one hundred and eighty years ago might have spent a Wednesday involved in the self-same pursuits.


On a completely different note, I recently spent a very happy ten minutes watching this. As the person who drew my attention to it said, it makes a change from the old British film of the famous Auden poem, Night Mail, good though that is.


9 thoughts on “Sentimental Landscapes

  1. What a fantastic film. Actually I had been wondering lately, (as you do), whether steam trains were really so marvellous compared with the huge sleek things that take us around now, but the film reminded me that the real thrill of steam, at least as far as I’m concerned, is nothing to do with nice elderly gents pretending to be stationmasters at their local restored branch line, or even with Thomas the Tank Engine. It is about the now forever vanished thrill of climbing into the tail of of a superbly fit and healthy metal monster, starting off in a cloud of hot steam,picking up speed and finally fleeing across the countryside only to arrive triumphantly at the station at the other end.

    Night Mail is just as good but in a completely different way. I am hugely impressed at the visual patterning and wonderful editing of this film.

    Sterne’s house is great. I might refer to your blog in my next post.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s