The Atlanta Cyclorama is reopening to the public after a lengthy closure for restoration. I’m curious to know if the revisionist nonsense painted over the original has been removed, or if the edits were restored along with the rest of the painting. Either way, I plan to see it next time I’m near Atlanta. I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging and engrossing the Gettysburg Cyclorama was.
The “Battle of Atlanta” painting was created by artists in Minnesota in 1886 as a dramatic tribute to Union Gen. William Sherman’s key victory in seizing and destroying Georgia’s capital. Among its dramatic licenses was including a soaring eagle – “Old Abe,” a mascot of a Wisconsin Union regiment that did not fight in the battle and would not have let the bird fly if it had, Jones says.
The painting toured several states in temporary displays before ending up in Atlanta, where it was altered to suit pro-Confederacy tastes. One famous change – later reversed — was repainting Confederate prisoners of war to transform them into fleeing Yankee troops. After the city constructed a permanent building in Grant Park to house the painting in 1921, it became a local icon of Lost Cause myths.
Only 17 Cyclorama paintings survive worldwide, museum officials say, and “The Battle of Atlanta” might have joined the others in rotting away if it were not for two African American mayors. Maynard Jackson, the city’s first black mayor, ordered a restoration that was completed in 1982, saying it was important to save a tribute to a key battle in a war that helped to free his ancestors. In 2011, Mayor Kasim Reed gathered a group to find a new and safe home for the painting as talk began of selling its Grant Park building.