An Entire World In A Single Illustration

Luis Helguera, Routes of the Flying Clipper Ships Pan Am, 1941

Sometimes illustrators want to convey an entire storyworld within a single scene. These are useful as establishing shots in stories.

Some call these illustrations ‘panoptic‘.

Panoptic refers to ‘showing or seeing the whole at one view’. Panoptic narrative art is often a bird’s eye view. The ‘camera’ is above. This is the art world’s equivalent of an all-seeing (omniscient) narrator.

The first to do is bring the ‘camera’ right up into the sky. The viewer now has a bird’s eye view of the setting.

But there’s more to it than that. It is an advanced compositional skill to incorporate mountains, deserts, forests and cities into a single scene.

Below is a collection of examples, with various ideas for composition.

Southwind, Johann Sadeler (I), after Maerten de Vos, 1560 - 1600 entire world
Southwind, Johann Sadeler (I), after Maerten de Vos, 1560 – 1600.
German Childs Book 1953 Vom lieben Gott und der schönen Welt
National Parks - detail from cover of 1958 AAA Travel brochure
National Parks – detail from cover of 1958 AAA Travel brochure
Promotional poster for Vence, Alpes Maritimes, by French illustrator Roger Broders (1883-1953)
The-West-End-London-Underground-Theatre-District-Advertisement-art-by-Ernest-Michael-Dinkel-1931
Lucien Boucher (1889-1971) Far East by Air France poster art 1950
Tove Jansson (1914 – 2001) rarely seen late 1950s poster illustration for The Moomins
Music Round the Town edited by Max T. Krone, Irving Wolfe, Beatrice Perham Krone & Margaret Fullerton, illustrated by Val Samuelson (1963) train
Cover by Saul Steinberg, 1976
Cover by Saul Steinberg, 1976
1951 The Summer Noisy Book, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard
1951 The Summer Noisy Book, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard
Felix Vallotton
Russell Brockbank (1913–1979) The International Geophysical Year, 1957 (Punch, 1956)
Russell Brockbank (1913–1979) The International Geophysical Year, 1957 (Punch, 1956)
1926 Illustration by Maud and Miska Petersham from inside the back cover of Olive Beaupre Miller's Tales Told in Holland
1926 Illustration by Maud and Miska Petersham from inside the back cover of Olive Beaupre Miller’s Tales Told in Holland
'Hot Springs at Shuzenji, Izu Province' - Utagawa Hiroshige, 1853
‘Hot Springs at Shuzenji, Izu Province’ – Utagawa Hiroshige, 1853
Robert Falcucci (1900-1989) 1931 Poster Art  Rallye de Monte-Carlo
Robert Falcucci (1900-1989) 1931 Poster Art Rallye de Monte-Carlo
'Summer Nights' by Vladimir Polunin, 1930
‘Summer Nights’ by Vladimir Polunin, 1930
J.R.R. Tolkein, illustration of Hobbiton for his book The Hobbit 1937
flying hat from the Tenngren Tell It Again Book, Gustaf Tenngren
from the Tenngren Tell It Again Book, Gustaf Tenngren
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
Harry Clarke Cinderella illustration for The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, first published in this format in 1922
By Peter Kľúčik for unpublished edition of The Hobbit
Buzzati, Dino, The Bears' famous Invasion of Sicily, 1947
Buzzati, Dino, The Bears’ famous Invasion of Sicily, 1947
Jaro Hess Poster of The Land of Make Believe 1933
Wheat harvesting, 1984- by Ashour Meselhi
Wheat harvesting, 1984- by Ashour Meselhi
Trouble for Trumpets by Peter Cross
Trouble for Trumpets by Peter Cross
1940s illustrations by Helen Sewell for Books of Knowledge Thanksgiving Day
1940s illustrations by Helen Sewell for Books of Knowledge Thanksgiving Day
'Steinberg's Panoramas' 2.11.1938
‘Steinberg’s Panoramas’ 2.11.1938
Gustaf Tenggren (1896 - 1970) Snow White and the Seven Dwarves poster 1937
Gustaf Tenggren (1896 – 1970) Snow White and the Seven Dwarves poster 1937
Things of Summer, Kathryn Jackson; illustration by Richard Scarry from The New Golden Almanac, 1952
Ilonka Karasz (Hungarian-American, 1896-1981) New Yorker 1953
Ilonka Karasz (Hungarian-American, 1896-1981) New Yorker 1953
F. Hugo D'Alesi, French (1849-1906), Zermatt railway opened in 1890. This is one of the first poster representations of the Matterhorn
F. Hugo D’Alesi, French (1849-1906), Zermatt railway opened in 1890. This is one of the first poster representations of the Matterhorn
Mike Lemanski Illustration for Fortune Magazine
Mike Lemanski Illustration for Fortune Magazine

Header illustration: Luis Helguera, Routes of the Flying Clipper Ships Pan Am, 1941

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