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The Industrial Revolution which began in the middle of the 17th century brought vast social and economic change to the demographic landscape of Great Britain. This phenomenon later spread to the U.S. and Europe, affecting similar changes to (their) social and economic conditions (Wyatt 2009). The English landscape was the scene of rapid physical transformation. Spinning mills loomed where once there was an unspoiled country side. The swift expansion of steel and mining industries turned night into day. Days were turned into smog filled panoramas of gloom. An increase in wealth also brought with it physical problems caused by pollution and unhealthy working conditions.
Figure #1 is a representation of an Industrial landscape at night. The strange glow of a coal furnace is contrasted against the natural light of the moon. The picture embraces an honest depiction of present conditions. Its dystopian context is symbolized by the contrast between a man-made industrial hell and natural landscape. The genre of landscape painting in England during the 18th century was not given as much importance as portrait painting or historical illustration. This “hierarchy of genres” (Langdon 2007) lost importance during the industrial revolution when people began to relate to the subjective impressions found in landscape painting.
The subjective association of landscape with emotional meaning evolved when new sensitivity to the world of nature inspired poets and writers. The pure force of nature’s metaphor compounded with poetic and prosaic imagery. One of Wordsworth’s first Romantic poems regrets the loss of mans spiritual union with nature.
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“To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man?
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes”.
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