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stereo works of art

3D is going through one of its periodic ‘hot’ periods with assorted Hollywood blockbusters being screened and appreciated by a cinema full of people wearing big glasses.

But as a new exhibition at Tate Britain reveals, the phenomenon has its roots in the middle of the 19th century.

“‘Poor Man’s Picture Gallery’: Victorian Art and Stereoscopic Photography” celebrates the hugely popular craze of  three-dimensional photos – or ‘stereographs’ – that caught the public imagination in the 1850s and 1860s.

The stereos come from the collection of the Queen guitarist Dr.Brian May, whose interest in these ingenious photos dates back over 40 years.

When viewed through a special set of glasses, two images taken from slightly different angles are viewed as one and appear to our brains in 3D.

Such was the popularity of stereos in the Victorian era that a thriving industry built up around it.

Among the most popular subjects were famous art works of the day by artists such as Henry Wallis, William Powell Frith and John Everett Millais.

Their pictures were displayed in art galleries and admired by huge crowds, but stereoscopic photography enabled works like Powell Frith’s famous ‘Derby Day’ to reach even bigger audiences.

The current Tate Britain exhibition, which is on show until 12th April 2015, brings together the original works and their stereo off-shoots in a fascinating display.

The attached link has a short video in which Brian May explains his fascination with stereos, and how they bring the Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite paintings that inspired these stereos to life.

‘Poor Man’s Picture Gallery’ – Tate Britain website

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