The Gettysburg Cyclorama, officially known as the “Battle of Gettysburg” Cyclorama, is a 360-degree circular painting that depicts Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1863. According to the Gettysburg National Military Park, it’s one of the last remaining cycloramas in the United States.
The Gettysburg Cyclorama was created by the French artist Paul Philippoteaux. Starting in 1882, Philippoteaux spent several weeks sketching the battlefield in order to accurately depict the climatic charge. Philippoteaux also had the opportunity to interview several veterans of the battle in order to obtain their thoughts on how the battle transpired.
Over the next 18 months, Philippoteaux and his assistants created the massive work and finally the “Cyclorama of the Battle of Gettysburg” opened in Chicago in 1883. He then went on to paint a second version to be shown in Boston in 1884 again to tremendous acclaim. This Boston version of the painting would eventually come to reside in Gettysburg in 1913. The National Park Service in Gettysburg purchased the painting and placed it in the visitor in 1962. The Gettysburg Cyclorama is 359 feet long, 27 feet high and weighs an estimated 3 tons.
Currently the Gettysburg Cyclorama is undergoing restoration and will be moved to the new visitor center in 2008.
Thanks to the Gettysburg National Battlefield Museum Foundation, you can download hi-res TIFF images of the painting and restoration project. These hi-res images allow you to zoom in and see parts of the painting in great detail, including some of the damage and the on-going restoration.
Ideas for the classroom:
- Have your students think about if they were Philippoteaux in Gettysburg in 1882, what types of questions would you ask, what would you be sketching, what would you be looking for?
- What would be some of the issues related to creating a painting of this size?
- Have your students view a portion of the painting and have them sketch a section.
These are just a couple of ideas. What ideas do you have for integrating this into your classroom?
Until next time…
Heiser, J. (2005, Dec). The gettysburg cyclorama. Retrieved July 17, 2007, from Gettysburg National Military Park Web site: http://www.nps.gov/archive/gett/gettcyclo.htm