A new exhibition at London’s Guildhall Art Gallery is offering a fascinating look into the first communications laid across the Atlantic Ocean, the 150th anniversary of which is being marked this year.
Victorians Decoded: Art and Telegraphy, which runs from 20 September 2016 to 22 January 2017, explores how cable telegraphy transformed people’s understanding of time, space and speed of communication. Never-before-seen paintings from the gallery’s collection and work by prominent Victorian artists will be on display, as well as rare artefacts such as code books, communication devices, samples of transatlantic telegraph cables and the Great Grammatizor, a specially-designed messaging machine that will enable the public to create a coded message of their own.
This collaboration between Guildhall Art Gallery, King’s College London, the Courtauld Institute of Art and the Institute of Making at University College London features painting by Edward John Poynter, Edwin Landseer, James Clarke Hook, William Logsdail, William Lionel Wyllie and James Tissot which registered a changing world. Four themed rooms – Distance, Resistance, Transmission and Coding – reveal the story of laying the heavy cables which weighed more than one imperial ton per kilometre across the Atlantic Ocean floor, from Valentia Island in Ireland to Newfoundland in Canada.
Vicky Carroll, head of the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery, said: “Thousands of miles of cable laid beneath the ocean sped up communication in a way that few people – not least, artists – could have ever imagined, forcing them to re-evaluate distance and time. There is no doubt that telegraphy transformed people’s lives, and Victorians Decoded will aim to convey their sense of excitement and wonder by using art works drawn from significant collections.”
The exhibition runs from 20 September 2016 to 22 January 2017 at the Guildhall Art Gallery.