Cyclorama gives a 360 degree view.
What the heck is a cyclorama? Isn't that a building
where they race bicycles? (No, that's a cyclodrome).
A cyclorama (from the Greek words cycl to
circle and orama to view) was the 19th century's version
of virtual reality. Back then artists tried to give their viewers
the 3D/surround effect now associated with virtual reality by
painting a large-scale, realistic scene on the inside of a cylinder.
Standing in the middle of the cylinder, a viewer would feel as
if he was seeing a distant place, or observing a long-gone event
in person, because the image wrapped around him filling his vision.
The idea was patented by an Irish painter named
Robert Barker. The story goes that the invention occurred to him
when Baker was out climbing a hill in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland.
When he reached the top and saw the city spread out around and
below him Barker decided he'd like to find a way of capturing
the view. He opened his first cyclorama in Edinburgh in 1787.
Dozens of cyclorama buildings, either circular or
hexagon-shaped, were constructed in cities throughout North America
and Europe by the late 1800's. The paintings would often stay
at a location for one or two years, then were moved out and another
brought in to replace it. Popular subjects often included civil
war battles or works of nature such as Niagara Falls.
observe the cyclorama you will need either a Java compatible
browser, or a Live Picture plug-in. Unfortunately, Live
Picture Inc has gone out of business and there is no place
to download the plug-in from if you do not already have
cyclorama images are larger in size than normal images
and may take a longer time to download.
Interest in cycloramas faded after the turn of the
century as the motion picture began to take public attention.
Many of the buildings were torn down and the paintings destroyed
or cut up into smaller works of art (the National Park Service
is still looking for pieces of the "Battle of Manassas" - if you
find a swatch of it in your grandma's attic, give them a call).
A fine depiction of the Chicago fire painted in the 1890's for
$250,000 was sold to a junk dealer for only two bucks in 1913.
Several of the most famous surviving cyclorama paintings
are "Pickett's Charge" (painted in 1884 depicting the events of
the Battle of Gettysburg) now located at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania,
and "The Battle of Atlanta" in Atlanta, Georgia. The "Cyclorama
of Jerusalem," which was finished in 1895 and depicts the crucifixion
of Christ, is still operating near Quebec, Canada. An unusual
cyclorama showing "Dante's Hell" continues on display in Europe.
In all, about 30 or so cycloramas still exist today.
Cycloramas were often very large in size (the Cyclorama
of Jerusalem is 46 feet high and 361 feet in circumference) and
would be observed from the center on a raised platform. Some even
blended the floor of the room into the picture and added cutouts
of foreground objects to heighten the effect.
Cyclorama at Gettysburg features "Pickett's Charge."
In 1896 a Chicago inventor took the cyclorama to
the next step by using eight projectors to display images on a
surrounding screen. The invention wasn't popular, but reappeared
in the 1960's in a slightly different version when Walt Disney
used a round theater and a bank of motion picture projectors to
create a motion picture relative of the cyclorama he called Circlevision.
The UnMuseum now features its own virtual cyclorama
through the use of technology from Live Picture, Inc.. The virtual
cyclorama consists of a frame through which you can observe a
360 degree panoramic image by using your mouse to drag the image
left or right and up or down as if you were turning your head
at a real cyclorama.
Copyright Lee Krystek
1998-2003. All Rights Reserved.