Chris Brenneman and Sue Boardman, Photographs by Bill Dowling
Savas Beatie, 2015, 222 pp., $34.95
Image courtesy of amazon.com
When you talk to most people who have visited the Gettysburg Cyclorama, they talk about the incredible awe which they felt when they first looked at the painting. It was one of the reactions I had when I looked at the painting for the first time. But for the life of me, I could not find a book which encapsulated the entire history and analysis of the painting. Until now. In The Gettysburg Cyclorama, Sue Boardman and Chris Brenneman talk about the history of the painting and analyze the panels of the canvas in incredible detail including photographs by Bill Dowling.
Chris Brenneman, Sue Boardman, and Bill Dowling, the photographer of this work, are Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park. For the work of this book, Chris Brenneman has spent hundreds of hours with this incredible painting looking for the minute intricacies which have been pointed out in the panels throughout the work. Sue Boardman was a crucial member of the Gettysburg Foundation for the conservation of the Cyclorama and has authored many books and articles. The photographer, Bill Dowling, is an award winning photographer who specializes in historical landscapes and has a special interest in Gettysburg. Many of his photographs have been used in books and magazines and have even made it on the Jumbotron in New York’s Time Square.
This book is an incredible accomplishment. While there have been other books about the Gettysburg Cyclorama, this one stands out from the rest. Not only does the book talk about the history of the painting itself, the authors and photographer go into each panel and point out what all the details on the panel are. These are often accompanied by excellent analyses on both the painting and the location of the battlefield which the canvas has shown. Such small details which amazed me was the placement of Robert E. Lee on the canvas. When you first look at the painting, you cannot even see where Lee could even be, but with the close up image from these authors and photographer, you can see where Lee was placed. Another commander who I never spotted on the painting was George Pickett who also appears quite small on the painting. Only with these analyses and photographs of the painting do these small details come out. But the most amazing thing which I never noticed and always thought it was an effect on the painting was the pencil drawing near Armistead’s head never painted over by the painter. Now, I cannot see Armistead without seeing the pencil drawings.
This book is excellent. If you are a fan of the Gettysburg Cyclorama, you need to buy this book. If you are a fan of the Battle of Gettysburg, you need to buy this book. If you are a fan of Civil War artwork, you need to buy this book. It not only talks about the Gettysburg Cyclorama, but talks about the tour of the Cyclorama and differences between the many different ones. Chris Brenneman and Sue Boardman should be praised for the work which they accomplished here. Bill Dowling’s photographs are spectacular. I cannot say enough good things about this book. I highly recommend The Gettysburg Cyclorama.