It’s checkup time for the Gettysburg Cyclorama painting.
Gettysburg National Military Park’s largest artifact requires special care and attention. To ensure that the painting remains in good condition, David L. Olin, an acclaimed painting conservator who led a five-year conservation project on the painting in 2003, visits on a regular basis to conduct a condition assessment.
The oil on canvas measures 377 feet in circumference at its widest point and 42 feet in height and weighs 12.5 tons. Since its installation at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center it has been the “must see” attraction in the facility.
Entitled “The Battle of Gettysburg,” it depicts a pivotal moment in America’s history: the charge of Confederate infantry popularly known as Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863. One of only two cyclorama paintings in the U.S. and about 20 worldwide, the Gettysburg Cyclorama painting experience offers the only historically accurate venue in the country.
French master Paul Philippoteaux and a team of 20 artists painted it in 1883 and 1884. In 2003, after nearly a century of neglect and deterioration, a five-year
conservation effort returned the painting to its original glory. Directed by the Gettysburg Foundation, in partnership with Gettysburg National Military Park, the project included conservation of the painting, recreation of 12 feet of missing sky, and addition of a new three-dimensional diorama and canopy, which had been lost for more than a century. The project was completed by Olin Conservation, Inc., Great Falls, Va., and was the largest-ever painting conservation project ever undertaken in North America.
Visitors today marvel at the three-dimensional diorama which includes fences, rocks, grasses, flowers, and cannon. The diorama is the key to the illusion, giving viewers the feeling that they are standing in the middle of Pickett’s charge. Battle veterans were said to have wept when they viewed this stirring example of state-of-the-art entertainment in the 1880s.
Tickets for the film, Cyclorama painting, and museum, and for battlefield tours, can be purchased
online at http://www.gettysburgfoundation.org, which also offers more detail about the new Gettysburg experience.
Thanks to Jason Martz, Visual Information Specialist at Gettysburg National Military Park, for the photos and video used in this post.
Katie Lawhon, Management Assistant, 2/26/15