Provoking passion Ruskin: The Later Years By Tim Hilton. Yale University Press, 2000. 544pp. £20
Cecile Wick - America: Landscapes
Edition Patrick Frey (Scalo), 1999. 84pp. £24.95. Distributor Thames & Hudson
It is close to 150 years since railways transformed their passengers' perception: suddenly the world was seen through a window, at speed, writes Andrew Mead. A constant succession of images, each one dissolving into the next, replaced direct, sensory engagement with the landscape.
To counteract as much as reflect this change in vision, illustrated albums and travel books of the 1850s (or thereabouts) would frame a map of a particular railway route with photographs of significant sights on the way: the journey was fractured into a series of stills, as places that would only have been glimpsed regained some of their reality.
By contrast, Cecile Wick, in this book of photographs of the American landscape from a speeding train, stresses the fluid not the fixed. Reflections from the interior of the carriage fuse with the scene outside, which, to a greater or lesser degree, is usually blurred and without an obvious focus. Featureless plains extend beneath a changing sky; place becomes no-place; the potentially sublime soon becomes the 'so what?'
As if to further undermine any pretension to grandeur they might have, the images are small and unvarying in size. They are curiously hypnotic nonetheless.