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Table of Contents
                            01 Title Page
02 Copyright
03 Dedication
04 Frontispiece
05 Contents
06 Kristian preface
07 Kristian introduction
08 Kristian chapter 1
09 Kristian chapter 2
10 Kristian chapter 3
11 Kristian chapter 4
12 Kristian conclusion
13 Bibliography
Document Text Contents
Page 1

The View from the Road

Tourist Routes and the Transformation of Scenic Vision in Western Norway





Kristian Tvedten




May 2016

Page 2

© Kristian Tvedten, 2016

Page 49


Within picturesque aesthetics lies an ethical dilemma that continues to challenge the ways

in which we see the world and our place in it. Aesthetic conceptualizations of landscape and

place continue to be fixated on formal properties established by picturesque scenery. Our taste

for natural scenery, therefore, is first and foremost of our own creation and not, however natural

it may seem, a reflection of nature’s true aesthetic qualities. Valuing natural beauty on human

terms has, for this reason, been called superficial, narcissistic, and trivial (Callicott 2008, 108-

109). America, too, provides examples of the pervasiveness the picturesque had on nineteenth

century travelers. In 1894, the naturalist writer and essayist John Muir famously described a visit

to the Sierra Mountains of California: “Pursuing my lonely way down the valley, I turned again

and again to gaze on the glorious picture, throwing up my arms to enclose it as in a frame. After

long ages of growth in the darkness beneath the glaciers, through sunshine and storms, it seemed

now to be ready and waiting for the elected artist . . .” (2008, 65). Muir’s human presence is here

seen as a civilizing force in the wilderness, and a vital tool in the creation of a new kind of

picturesque art that had been popularized by a number of new visual technologies over the

course of the nineteenth century.

Trains, Tourists, and the Mechanization of Norwegian Scenery

The first automobile rolled onto Norwegian soil in August of 1901. Its driver was Peter

Scheltema Beduin, a Dutch tourist and adventurer who had previously undertaken long car

journeys through the Alps (Kjolberg 2016). After the arrival of Beduin, automobiles became the

preferred mode of transportation, especially with regard to tourism. To be sure, one of the

primary attractions of the NTR is to get travelers off the buses and into independent automobiles.

But with this newfound freedom to traverse scenic landscapes on one’s own come certain

limitations in which the natural features of the landscape become fused with the mechanical

apparatus used to navigate them. Landscapes are inseparable from those who create them. What

makes landscapes profoundly human, therefore, is their utility. With this in mind, this section

will address some of the ways scenic perception was altered through a process of mechanized

control. At first glance the idea of mechanization may seem out of place in describing landscape

– a construct with a seemingly organic connection to nature. Yet we should remember that

landscapes are in themselves dependent on mechanical adaptability. When linear perspective

revolutionized painting in the sixteenth century, for example, it imposed a mechanical structure

Page 50


on scenic pictures. When we think about scenic landscape, then, we should recall that its origins

were built around the idea of pictorial control, and that such control extended beyond the frame

of the picture and into the real world.

In 1865 Carl Abraham Pihl became Norway’s first railway director, a position he held

until his death in 1897. During these years, the railway industry in Norway grew considerably, as

did the number of tourists who flocked to the tiny northern European nation to witness firsthand

its distinctive brand of nature. Pihl left behind a remarkable archive of photographs, which

document every stage of the railroad construction. He would clamber up the rocky ledges, his

heavy tripod in hand, and strategically position his camera so as to achieve a harmonious balance

of natural features and mechanical apparatus. The resulting photographs “presented not so much

an awesome spectacle as the dream of a new harmony between technology and nature . . .”

(Hvattum 2011, 120). Even more explicitly, though, the images speak to the conflicting

relationship between nature and technology and demonstrate how this relationship materializes

in the landscape. For Pihl, technology and the mechanical adaptability of the railroad represented

less an interruption of a natural landscape, as an enhancement of a wilderness waiting to be

improved (Hvattum 2011, 120). Such an idea recalls one of the central characteristics associated

with early tourists, that the scenes they were viewing could in some way be improved through

the use of optical technologies (Andrews 1989).

Railroads represent, in almost the purest sense, a disruption in a pastoral ideal that had

been, for so long, the defining characteristic of what the Norwegian Romantic painters sought to

capture. In this way they also represent something that has been interpreted as quintessentially

American. Readers of Leo Marx, for example, will recall that in an age of rapid technological

change, no landscape, not even Thoreau’s Walden Pond, can ever again exist as a refuge from

the shriek of the locomotive (1964, 249-255). In Norway, the railroad was not altogether

welcomed by locals or tourists. British writer E. J. Goodman makes a brief, if somewhat vague

reference to the clamber of steel rails in his 1892 book, The Best Tour in Norway. “I had reached,

in fact, the region of what I may call the ‘switchback’ road, if I may apply to it the term so

familiarly associated with an engine of amusement and suffering that has lately become popular

in connection with some of our exhibitions” (1892, 166). Goodman is not outright contemptuous

of railways, though he does express concern over their impact on Norway’s majestic terrain,

writing that, “railways would, in a certain sense, be the ruin of Norway . . .” (1892, 126).

Page 97


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