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Gettysburg Cyclorama critics: Reviews ranged from ‘huge dinosaur’ to ‘I was captivated’

Tourists visited the rehabbed Cyclorama on the weekend of its grand opening. Background posts: Half dozen groups probe acquisition of Gettysburg’s retired Electric Map, York newspaper about Gettysburg Address: ‘Mr. Lincoln made a joke or two …’ and New visitors center gets buzz, but court to rule on old Cyclorama site

The Cyclorama painting is open for a much-anticipated public viewing at the Gettysburg National Military Park.
But early visitors received a special treat in addition to the revamped, round painting.
The visitors center charged $7.50 to see a 22-minute orientation firm and to view the Cyclorama, according to the York Daily Record/Sunday News… .

Viewers are outlining against the Cyclorama’s canvass.
That was down from the $12 fee for both previously proposed.
But that pricing is not final, a foundation spokesman said.
That adjustment is well advised. Twelve dollars might set well with an out-of-state tourist, but it will cut down on repeat visits from tourists from the Central Pennsylvania region.
As for its reception, here are several reviews, as reported in the York Daily Record/Sunday News (9/28/08) under the headline: “Critics weigh in on Cyclorama/Their reviews ranged from ‘huge dinosaur’ to ‘I was captivated.’ ”

The restored “Battle of Gettysburg” cyclorama painting opened to the public Friday, and it’s received mostly good reviews from those given early previews.
Reporters and photographers got sneak peaks of the $15 million conservation effort, which includes an observation platform and diorama, before it opened to the public. Here’s what some news organizations have said:
“. . . I recall the Cyclorama from long-ago visits as a big, boring circle. Then I saw it again in August for a preview visit, and I was captivated. Cleaned of more than 100 years of dirt, the painting glows, and it lives.
“Panel-by-panel, Philippoteaux’s artists transform mere paint into anguish, desperation, pain, death, determination. When I ascended the Cyclorama’s viewing platform, I felt the battle rage on all sides, and the experience had a sobering power. I finally understood why Civil War veterans wept when they saw the painting.”
Sheila Young, The Baltimore Sun
* * *
“The Gettysburg Cyclorama, a huge dinosaur of a painting left over from the heyday of circuses, magic shows and brass bands playing on the town square, has never been a great painting. Its cartoonish soldiers and clutter of horses never really delivered on the promise of an illusion so real you’d swear you were in the middle of the great Civil War battle.
“But the giant painting in the round sat at Gettysburg since 1913, while the March of Progress coughed up movies with sound, television, the Internet and computer games. The painting never got better, but it did get stranger — a relic of what seemed a more credulous era — and over time it became part of history itself.
“And now, in one of the stranger twists of the history of how we tell history, the giant 1884 canvas has been given the loving treatment of an old master painting.
“. . . The panorama is a fully rehabilitated entry in the catalogue of antiquated illusions, an entertainment like Grandma’s stereoscope, or the magic lantern shows that used to tour town to town back when telephones had cranks, not buttons. You can almost hear the barker shouting ridiculous superlatives — ‘The MOST MARVELOUS PRODUCTION of THIS AGE,’ as an advertisement for the cyclorama more than a century ago put it (with a profusion of capital letters).”
Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post
* * *
“You may think you’ve seen the cyclorama at the National Military Park in the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, visitor center, but if you haven’t seen it lately, you haven’t really seen it at all.”
Catharine Hamm, Los Angeles Times
* * *
“But even partially restored, the painting seethes with life — and death. This is no mindless celebration of war but a balancing act of horror and heroism. Philippoteaux stared straight into the face of battle, and he didn’t flinch.”
Malcolm Jones, Newsweek
* * *
“As The New York Times described the effect in an 1882 interview with Philippoteaux: ‘The wonderful skill of the painter is called into play in this foreground. Where the actual material things begin and where imitative art commences must be so well done that the deception must be invisible.’
“Men who fought in the battle testified to the veracity of art’s imitation of war. ‘I never before had an idea that the eye could be so deceived by paint and canvas,’ Brig. Gen. Henry J. Hunt, the former Union artillery chief, wrote in 1884 upon seeing the cyclorama.”
Lisanne Renner, The New York Times

See Cannonball blogger’s review of the opening Saturday at Official Grand Opening – New Gettysburg Visitors Center.