In a gigantic room holding the 359-foot-long “Battle of Atlanta” cyclorama, workers perched along the 50-foot-high painting on lifts with paintbrushes and iPads. Using old photographs and state-of-the-art technology, they are bringing the 130-year-old painting back to life.
The historic cyclorama painting of the pivotal Civil War battle was moved to the Atlanta History Center from Grant Park last year and many visitors are eager to see it in its new home. Not many know that the cyclorama is already hanging on the circular wall of a massive new exhibit hall for the extensive restoration work that must be completed before public display.
Having recently finished removing varnish and poor repainting done in a previous restoration, the museum is gearing up to repaint the entire sky and pieces removed over the painting’s 130-year history, Gordon Jones, the museum’s senior military historian and curator, said during a Jan. 25 tour of the new cyclorama building.
The museum’s main goal is to present the painting as it was originally intended, correcting several flaws in how it was presented in Grant Park since 1921, Jones said.
“Nobody that is alive today will have seen the painting the way it was supposed to be seen,” Jones said. “The whole thing here is restore the original illusion, which was virtual reality of its time.”
The painting was “hanging like a loose shower curtain,” in the Grant Park building, ruining the illusion, museum spokesperson Howard Pousner said during the tour.
The painting, which was first displayed in Minnesota in 1886 and toured various states before ending up in Atlanta, is now pulled tight, and in an impressive display covers the circular walls of the enormous room built to hold the cyclorama. In the center of the room is a raised viewing platform where visitors will overlook a diorama installed at the base of painting. That diorama, consisting of 128 soldiers, will be a restored version of one created for the Grant Park cyclorama display, Jones said.
Atlanta History Center plans to unveil the restored painting this fall.
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