Before feature films. Before IMAX. Before virtual reality. There was the cyclorama.
The must-see entertainment of the 1880s, cycloramas were the blockbuster movies of their time. Often depicting epic battles or historical places, the enormous, paintings-in-the-round transported viewers into the middle of the fray; surrounding them with a 360-degree, hand-painted canvas longer than a football field and higher than a four-story building.
Created by French artist Paul Philippoteaux in 1884, The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama depicts the fury of Pickett’s Charge during the decisive third day of fighting. Reviews of the time called it “marvelous,” “remarkable” and “must be seen.”
The painting survived years of exhibition, multiple moves, vandalism, fire, cuts and neglect before finding a home in Gettysburg in 1913. Purchased by the National Park Service in 1942, the painting underwent multiple restoration efforts–including a multimillion-dollar restoration from 2004-08–and now hangs as the centerpiece of the cyclorama building at the Museum & Visitor Center.
With its landscaped foreground and dramatic sound and lighting effects, the Battle of Gettysburg still creates the three-dimensional illusion of being in the midst of the battle. It is an immersive experience today’s visitors call “moving,” “riveting” and “breathtaking.”
And nearly 140 years later, it still “must be seen.”
Why visit the Cyclorama?
Today, audiences are as awe-struck by the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama as they were in the 1880s. You will be too.
- Historic Treasure: Appreciate the art. The Battle of Gettysburg painting is the largest oil-on-canvas painting in North America and is among the last cyclorama paintings in existence.
- Accurate Depiction: Marvel at the detail. Through interviews with veterans and by documenting the landscape with a photographer, Philippoteaux spent months researching the battle. Although a few historical errors still appear in the artwork, the painting generally provides a “well documented visual history” of the battle.
- Shared History: Feel the impact of the cyclorama and consider the significance it had on the Gettysburg veterans who viewed this same painting during the 50th Anniversary of the Battle in 1913.
- One ticket, three experiences: Stand in the middle of the battle. The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama is included as part of your Film, Cyclorama & Museum Experience–your start to a moving and memorable Gettysburg visit.
Majestic painting of Pickett's Charge.
What will you find?