Barker, Robert

, an artist of great ingenuity, deserves notice as having contributed to “the harmless stock of public pleasure,” although the particulars of his early life may not be interesting. He was the inventor and patentee of the now well-known species of exhibition called a Panorama, by which bird’s-eye views of large cities anti other interesting subjects, taken from a tower, or some other elevated situation, and painted in distemper round the wall of a circular building, produce a very striking effect, and a greater resemblance to reality than was ever before invented, a strong light being thrown on the painting, whilst the place from whence it proceeds is concealed. The deception is also aided by the picture having no frame or apparent boundary. The first picture of this kind was a view of Edinburgh, exhibited to the public in that city by Mr. Barker, in 1788, and in the following year in London, where it did not attract much attention nor was the invention popular, until Mr. Barker named his exhibition a Panorama, a compound word which was not ill contrived to excite curiosity. The first view, under this new title, was one of London from the top of the Albion Mills, which Mr. Barker exhibited at a house in Castle-street, Leicester Fields and although this was confined, Tor want of room, to a half circle, he was soon patronised and encouraged by the liberal praises of sir Joshua Reynolds and other eminent artists. Soon after, partly by means of a subscription, Mr. Barker was enabled to build a large and commodious house in Leicester Fields, calculated to give his exhibition every advantage. Since that time, "views of Dublin, Paris, Constantinople, Cairo, and other cities, with some of the most remarkable sea-fights of the present eventful war, have been exhibited with the greatest success. A more rational, or in many respects a more useful, public exhibition, it would be difficult to conceive. Mr. Barker died in April 1806, at his house in West-square, Southwark, leaving two sons, one of whom continues the exhibition in Leicester-square, with all his father’s skill. 1


Lysons’s Environs, suppl. volume.