Negotiating the urban terrain : representations of the city of Glasgow in the visual arts
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This thesis analyses representations of the city of Glasgow in visual culture. Given the absence of any coherent study of Glasgow images the primary method is empirical. The thesis explores how the dynamic of change in the urban environment has been rendered in visual media by gathering together paintings, photographs, prints and journal illustrations. In order to contextualise the visual material within the social and historical circumstances that affect its character, this material is considered in relation to pertinent history and theory. Consequently, the disciplines of social and economic history, sociology, philosophy and urban studies are employed. The developing discourse of the city as a visual phenomenon is charted in a broadly chronological manner. Rather than a simplistic historical narrative, this highlights the unfolding connections between the ambitions of Glasgow's 'governors' and the ideological pattern of related images. The thesis opens by revealing the associations between Enlightenment philosophy and the visual interpretation of the increasingly commercial urban environment. It then analyses changes incurred by the projection of a 'municipal' consciousness and shows how the impact of industrialisation was visualised in relation to prevailing artistic styles. Furthermore, it considers the effect of the aesthetic climate on the creation and reception of urban imagery. The thesis then argues that, after the industrial heyday, there was a sense that the essence of Glasgow lay not in its monuments, but in its populace, particularly the working class. Finally, there is a close study of post-industrial Glasgow, accenting patterns of decline and highlighting resistance to commercially inspired and culturally directed 'official' visions. This thesis finds that there was a complex discourse between Glasgow's material reality and its visual representation. It gives full voice to the network of mediating factors and presents a highly specific case study in the aesthetic manifestation of urban life.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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