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Gettysburg Visitor Center Cyclorama

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Armed with a vast amount of information and ideas, Philippoteaux returned to his studio where he immediately set about laying out the great work. A team of assistants helped him sketch out every detail including soldiers, trees, crops, fences and stone walls, and then began applying tons of oil paint. The phenomenal work took over a year and one-half to complete. The "Cyclorama of the Battle of Gettysburg" opened to the public in Chicago in 1883, complete with a three-dimensional earthen foreground littered with the relics of battle, stone walls, shattered trees and broken fences. Visitors were awed by the painting's spectacular realism. Veterans of the battle, including General John Gibbon whose troops threw back Pickett's Division on July 3, wrote of its splendor.

Advertising card for the "Battle of Gettysburg" Cyclorama on Tremont Street in Boston.
Philippoteaux's "Battle of Gettysburg" received such public acclaim that he was contracted to paint a second version of his monumental work, which opened in Boston in 1884. Once again Philippoteaux's "Battle of Gettysburg" cyclorama received critical acclaim and hundreds of visitors crowded into the specially-built cyclorama building on Tremont Street to view the incredible painting and listen to a lecture on the battle and those personalities involved in this monumental event. The painting was exhibited for nearly twenty years before waning public interest caused the theater to be financially inoperable, and the Gettysburg Cyclorama shut its doors forever.

Hearing that the Boston cyclorama was up for sale, a Gettysburg-area entrepreneur purchased the painting and moved it with its props and accoutrements of the foreground, to Gettysburg. The painting arrived in good condition, though several of the panels were ripped and torn and some had rotted around the bottom due to moisture in the soil of the foreground. Repairs were made to the rips by taking portions of the skyline, the upper portion of which was evidently discarded, and stitching them into place where they were painted over by artists as each panel was hung. The cyclorama opened for public exhibition just in time for the 1913 Anniversary celebration of the Battle of Gettysburg, in a specially constructed building on Baltimore Street, and remained there for approximately forty years.

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