John Banvard’s Brush with Success

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artinmediaWhen John Banvard died in Watertown in 1891, newspapers throughout America and Europe ran his obituary, though it was hardly the kind of attention the town fathers might welcome. Most of the media wondered how it came to pass that one of the 19th century’s wealthiest and most renowned artists could die penniless in an American frontier town.

John Banvard achieved international success by fulfilling a boyhood dream of creating the largest painting ever. That might not seem like much of an accomplishment, but when completed, his Mississippi Panorama stood 12 feet high and stretched 3 miles in length. Known to the world as The Three Mile Painting or Banvard’s Grand Panorama of the Mississippi, Banvard’s canvas depicted nearly 3,000 miles of riverbank, from the mouth of the Yellowstone River on the upper Missouri all the way to New Orleans.

In marking his passing, the Watertown paper printed that Banvard was, “one of the greatest men the world ever saw, and by his genius and skill has made himself so famous that his name will go down in history as such.”

That prophecy proved less than accurate; as a matter of fact, Banvard’s name is scarcely known today…

via South Dakota Magazine. To view the rest, click here.

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