Tate: two cities, tale


In the making of the modern world, Paris and London are related almost as head and body. It was Paris that had the ideas – from the idea of revolution to Charles Baudelaire’s notion of the artist of modern life to Picasso’s concept of cubism. The Marxist cultural theorist Walter Benjamin called Paris “capital of the 19th century” and he was right. Yet this is a paradox, because London was the place where modern life began, capital of the workshop of the world, metropolis of the largest empire the world has ever seen, home of the Crystal Palace that inspired Eiffel’s wondrous iron lattice in the sky. London was the grinding nightmare city of the future, in foreign eyes; the setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling story The Man of the Crowd. When the French illustrator Gustave Doré visited mid-19th-century London he went in the spirit of an explorer visiting Africa and came back with dreadful doom-laden images of a future city where people live under railway arches in unimaginable squalor.

more from The Guardian Unlimited here.