Diorama

DEFINITION

A term originally applied to three-dimensional appearing scenes, often with a painted background, and lit and viewed through a peephole, it gives a three-dimensional effect. The term, Diorama, also applies to the viewing light box, which was invented in 1822 by L.J.M. Daguerre. In the 20 and 21st centuries, dioramas refer to three-dimensional backgrounds for exhibitions such as for realistic wildlife exhibits in natural history museums. Often the lighting is adjusted to create atmospheric effects. Unlike expansive, eye-catching dioramas of the 19th Century such as those by Albert Bierstadt and Frederic Church, modern dioramas usually function as backdrops to exhibits such as stuffed mammals and birds or commercial business exhibits. These later American dioramists include Joseph Cerveau, J. Perry Wilson, Frank MacKenzie, William Leigh, Francis Lee Jacques, Clarence Rosenkrantz, Hobart Nichols, Peter George, Earle Heika, Joe Halko, Dudley Blakely and D. Alanson Spencer. Sources: Kimberley Reynolds and Richard Seddon, "Illustrated Dictionary of Art Terms"; http://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/dioramas/artists/painters.php; AskART database<br><br>A three-dimensional representation of a scene, either full-scaled or miniature. It may have a background painted to merge with elements nearest it by means of aerial and linear perspective. It may be made on a platform with or without a clear glass front, set into an illuminated niche, and viewed from a darkened area. In miniature form, it may be entirely enclosed, and viewed through a peephole. It has been used for life-size scene in which figures, stuffed wildlife, and other objects are arranged in a naturalistic setting, exhibits of engineering and industrial projects, and advertising displays. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a popular form of didactic entertainment, often containing a scene reproduced on cloth transparencies with various lights shining through the cloths to produce changes in effect, intended for viewing at a distance.Examples: John Heaviside Clark (English, 1770-1863), The Portable Diorama, 1826, painted and varnished wood, canvas, aquatint, and watercolor; six foreground images: each 6 x 8 5/8 inches; six background images: 7 3/4 x 10 1/2 inches; box: 4 7/8 x 13 1/8 x 10 3/8 inches, Getty Research Institute, Malibu, CA. This is one of 22 objects in the Devices of Wonder exhibit catalogued online by the Getty Museum -- best seen with Flash and RealAudio plugins.

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