Our first visit to Gettysburg in 2010 was with 21st century eyes. Our next visit to Gettysburg, last June, was through 19th century eyes. Specifically we got to experience the 19th century Gettysburg Cyclorama.
Cycloramas were a popular 19th century form of entertainment. However the tragedy of the Civil War transformed the cyclorama from the art form of entertainment to memorial. The veterans wanted to tell their story. The ultimate form of telling their story was played out in this unique form of theater.
By nature, cycloramas were larger than life, with tremendously sized paintings that encircled audiences, allowing them to feel immersed in the subject matter. Live objects were placed in front of the painting to give a 3D effect.
In the late 19th century, the acclaimed French painter Paul Philippoteaux undertook what became known as the greatest work of his life, the Cyclorama of The Battle of Gettysburg. Nine months of research in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania included sketching scenes of the area, studying maps, and interviewing veterans. Two more years of painting in Paris yielded his piece de resistance. My 1884 program describes it as "four hundred feet long and fifty feet high, consequently measuring 20,000 square feet."
Below are some of my souvenirs: the 1884 program (in pink, 48 pages) and a string of postcards, with images front and back of each of the panels.
Here, again, you see an image of the pink program in the museum exhibit.
After a short movie of the Battle of Gettysburg, we entered a large room where we stood on a stage facing the Cyclorama. We were free to walk around and take pictures as the lights and sound effects brought the paintings to life...
Souvenir program Cyclorama of Battle of Gettysburg, reprint from 1884