York Views and the Present

Dramatic change to York was not limited to the years between 1795 and 1825 but instead continued throughout the Victorian era and right up to the present-day Brexit-era. The introduction of the railway system, industrialization, and two World Wars, amongst many other events, all came to bear on how York was understood locally, nationally, and internationally. The idea of York as picturesque, an idyllic vision of a bygone era, or York as a city that had pressing concerns related to the needs of an ever-increasing population appear in artistic and political attitudes to the city. Even Dr Evelyn, who collected the prints featured in this online exhibition, was caught between these attitudes: supporting preservation projects and also helping the city’s poor.

Views of York asks us to consider the ongoing relationship between politics and the artistic approach to the city. How do current events change our perspective of York? Do they promote a vision of how the city should look, or do they facilitate a discussion of hardships in the city that go beyond the iconic Minster? With the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union in 2020 and lockdown measures taken in response to COVID-19, how might our understanding of York change: is it idyllic or deeply aware of societal problems, or somewhere in between?