How Illustrators of the 1800s Imagined the Distant Future — Our Present
Artists, illustrators, and adventurers of the 1800s has fantastical imaginations for the distant future, i.e. our present day. How do their magical predictions stack up against our reality?
From the ancient times, humanity advanced a long way in its attempts to understand the world that surrounds us. New inventions and discoveries always inspired fantasy and curiosity; each generation tried to imagine how the future would look like. The most restless ones were trying to materialize their fantasies in a form of fantasy inventions and drawings of the things to come.
When looking back, we can compare the real progress that actually took place but also the dreams of our predecessors about our "future." Talking about retrofuturism, we witness the clash between the yesterday's "tomorrow" and our reality today. Sometimes it looks like a mechanical cow walking up the ramp, but most of the time these pictures portray something that could fly.
The famous dreamers of the 19th and 20th centuries were Albert Robida, French illustrator and a novelist, Harry Grant Dart, the creator of magnificent cartoons and comic strips, and writers George Griffith and Jules Verne, who were among of the pioneers the genre of science fiction. They and others were striving to predict the technological advances that would be achieved, the devices that would be used, new transportation and changes in society. Their works expanded the horizons of human curiosity and set popular expectations for future progress.
See all of the retrofuturism public domain images collection on Picryl.
1885. Robot Cow Walking Up The Ramp.
1899. Futuristic air travel by Harry Grant Dart
1864. French cartoon “Voyage a la lune”
1849-1850. Henson's Aerial Steam Carriage
1894 – 1895. Science fiction from "The Outlaws of the Air.”
1882. Aerial Rotating House, A. Robida
1895. Their First Christmas Eve. A vision of the future by C.J. Taylor.
1908. Surely the world is growing better by Will Crawford.
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"Nothing but naked people: fat ones, thin ones, old, young…"
"The Yellow Sands", 1888, John Reinhard Weguelin; source: Wikimedia Commons<h3>Naked revolution</h3><p>Yet long before anyone knew about beach fashion, naturism was trendy. Bathing naked in the sea was going on in England as early as 1840. However, during the reign of Queen Victoria, this pleasure was outlawed. But it popped up again among the conservative Germans. In 1898, the first Naturist Club was founded in Essen and in 1900 the Wandering Birds group (<em>Wandervögel</em>) was scouring the country for uninhabited places and naked sunbathing. In the same year, Heinrich Pudor wrote <em>The C</em><em>ult of </em><em>the </em><em>Nud</em><em>e</em>, winning the hearts of contemporary supporters of naturism.</p><p>In the 1920s, on the back of this, members of the Movement for Natural Healing (<em>Naturheilbewegung</em>) organized naked sunbathing for the improvement of health. Persuaded by Pudor's theory of the healing properties of the sun and wind, which could be absorbed through the skin, they launched the naked revolution.</p><p>Pudor's book became the naturists' manifesto and soon after, not far from Hamburg, the Free Body Culture (<em>Freikörperkultur</em>, or FKK) movement was founded. This spread through other German centres and brought together thousands of people. The FKK still operates under the same name today.</p><p>The cult of the naked body even wrote itself into the ideology of fascist Germany, which advocated a pure, Aryan race. But in 1933, Hermann Göring issued an order that defined nudity as "the greatest threat to the German soul" and, with that, criminalized naturist organizations. But this wasn't the end of the movement. The naturists went underground, continuing their activities under the guise of improving physical fitness.</p><p>In 1936, the idea was even floated of having a naturist display to open the Berlin Olympic Games. It was quickly dropped. Despite this, in 1939 the naturists managed to organize their own Games in the Swiss village of Thielle.</p>
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