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Conserving the Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley Staff Pick

When: Tuesdays. Continues through July 30 2019
Price: free admission
Before the advent of film, the only way to see the parts of America where you didn't live was through an artist's representation. Enterprising artists such as Irish immigrant John J. Egan realized that if you could recreate in a painting the feeling of traveling through the country, audiences would pay to see it. The result were the geographic panoramas of the nineteenth centuries, immense paintings mounted on pairs of rollers. Crowds purchased tickets to see these spooling paintings (some of which were hundreds of feet long) unroll to reveal the natural wonders of America. Egan's Panorama of the Monumental Grandeur of the Mississippi Valley is a 350-foot piece of fabric that features 25 individual scenes of life along the Mississippi River in the mid-1800s. The Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park ( currently owns the panorama and has it set up in Sculpture Hall on a pair of metal drums controlled by a custom-built motorized system. Unfortunately the constant unfurling of this brilliant work of art degraded its surface. Eight years of diligent work by museum art conservators have restored numerous panels to their original glory, and now only three damaged panels remain. A team of conservators is at work on those final bits even now. Visitors are able to observe their work, and ask questions of conservators, at 11 a.m. on Tuesdays in July.
— Paul Friswold


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