Robert Thorne investigates the nineteenth-century passion for views that has inspired the exhibition about to open at London's Barbican Art Gallery.

Despite films, video and all the other paraphernalia of contemporary image-making our fascination with panoramas refuses to go away. Even the most jaded traveller, for whom the knowledge of what to expect has blunted the thrill of arriving in a strange city, cannot resist the urge to climb the tallest building or the neighbouring hilltop to get a comprehensive view of its streets and layout; and out in the country few people defy the temptation to get as high as possible to secure a view of the surrounding landscape.

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