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Be sure to "follow" this blog for developing news about the Panorama of Pilgrim's Progress Book!

“The Painters’ Panorama” In Print!

June 5, 2015
Announcing the publication of The Painters’ Panorama: Narrative, Art, and Faith in the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress by the University Press of New England!
The book is published in collaboration with the Saco Museum and features essays by former Saco Museum Director Jessica Skwire Routhier; former Saco Museum curator Thomas Hardiman, Jr.; and renowned American art scholar Kevin J. Avery.

This book is the culmination of a decades-long project to preserve and reinterpret this 800-foot-long panoramic painting from 1851 in the collection of the Saco Museum. The panorama’s story–its spectacular debut, its disappearance, and its rediscovery–is remarkable in and of itself, but this is also a great museum story. According to a recent blog post for UPNE, “the reason we know much of anything at all about the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress . . . is that it was donated to a public museum.”

All royalties will go to the Dyer Library and Saco Museum, the little Maine museum that took on one of the biggest paintings in the world.
You can order the book online here:
And you can also find the recent post on the UPNE blog here:

On a Long-Lost American Masterpiece, and Why Public Museums Matter

May 19, 2015

The University Press of New England’s blog features the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress!

“…the reason we know much of anything at all about the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress, beyond the historical fact of its existence and the newspaper accounts of its production and enthusiastic public reception in 1851, is that it was donated to a public museum.

Read the full post here.

The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress on view in Building 13 of the Pepperell Mill Campus, Biddeford, Maine, June 18, 2012. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette, courtesy Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress on view in Building 13 of the Pepperell Mill Campus, Biddeford, Maine, June 18, 2012. Photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette, courtesy Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

Advance Copies are Here!

February 17, 2015

The first advance copies of The Painters’ Panorama: Narrative, Art, and Faith in the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress arrived in the mail yesterday!  Thank you to the University Press of New England for sending it and creating such an elegant book.

The Painters' Panorama

The Painters’ Panorama

It has been twenty years since the panorama–thought to have been lost for a full century–was rediscovered in the collection of Maine’s Saco Museum.  So this book is the culmination of two decades of work to restore it, reinterpret it, and make it accessible once again to fans and scholars of panoramas, nineteenth-century American painting, John Bunyan (author of The Pilgrim’s Progress) and many others.

There are brief author bios on the jacket flap.

Author bios on the jacket flap.

The book’s authors–Jessica Skwire Routhier, Kevin J. Avery, and Thomas Hardiman Jr.–all played important roles in bringing the panorama back to public life.  But we want to also share this moment with Leslie L. Rounds, Director of the Dyer Library and Saco Museum (who contributed the book’s Introduction) and Peter Morelli, a longtime trustee of the library and museum, who can accept as much credit as anyone–probably more–for the fact that the panorama is known about, cared for, and appreciated today.

The panorama and this book about it touch upon many different disciplines and communities, from 17th-century English literature and theology to the Hudson River School of American landscape painting to an international phenomenon of panorama painting and scholarship that continues to this day. In its purest sense, however, this book is a paean to the power and importance of museums, particularly the small Maine museum that took on one of the biggest paintings in the world.

Dedicated to the ones we love.

Dedicated to the ones we love.

The official publication date is May 5, 2015.  Place your pre-orders now!

Panorama Book Online and at College Art Association

February 12, 2015

The annual conference of the College Art Association is going on right now, and the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress book is there!  Here is a picture from the University Press of New England table in the exhibit area, with the panorama front and center.

Panorama book featured at the College Art Association Annual Conference, 2015

Panorama book featured at the College Art Association Annual Conference, 2015

Advance copies are on display, and they are taking orders.  You can also pre-order a copy from the UPNE website by following this link.  So very proud to be part of UPNE’s family of authors and to share the panorama with the CAA’s community of scholars.

New online features

March 6, 2014

Just in case you have ever thought to yourself, I wish I could hear Jessica Skwire Routhier talk about the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress for forty-five solid minutes…now you can!  Back in November 2012, before the panorama exhibition closed, Peter Morelli asked to videotape my gallery talk for posterity.  Here’s the link:

(Sorry about all the background noise. )

And don’t forget, you can also watch the panorama film (plus or minus a six-minute introduction) by going to and clicking “Watch the Film,” or see a live performance of the full-scale replica on the stage at Saco’s historic City Hall by clicking “Visit the Exhibition.”

Panorama Book Receives Grant from Wyeth Foundation

February 25, 2014

The Andrew and Betsy Wyeth Foundation for American Art has just announced a $9,000 grant to the University Press of New England in support of  The Painters’ Panorama: Narrative, Art, and Faith in the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress. With essays by Jessica Skwire Routhier, Kevin J. Avery, and Thomas Hardiman, Jr., this monograph will tell the remarkable story of the panorama, from the circumstances of its creation and debut in 1851, to its descent into loss and obscurity for a full century, to its serendipitous rediscovery in 1996 and restoration in 2012.  Funding from the Wyeth Foundation will make possible the inclusion of full-color plates of all forty extant scenes of the panorama, making the book an unprecedented complete visual document of an extant moving panorama.

This book is a collaborative project with the Dyer Library and Saco Museum, owners of the panorama.

For more about the  book project, click here.

For an abstract of the book, click here: Abstract

Heartfelt thanks to the Wyeth Foundation and all the other project supporters to date.


October 21, 2013

The Dyer Library and Saco Museum, owner of the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress, has just signed a contract with the University Press of New England to publish a monograph on the panorama, slated for publication in the spring of 2015.


The book will include forty beautiful, full-color plates of all the major extant scenes of the panorama, as well as reproductions of artwork by the Hudson River School painters who participated in its production.

The book will also include new scholarship by Jessica Skwire Routhier, former director of the Saco Museum, and additional essays by Kevin Avery, former curator of American paintings and sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and professor of Art History at Hunter College of the City University of New York; and Thomas Hardiman, Jr., former curator of the Saco Museum and now Keeper at the Portsmouth Athenaeum. Avery’s essay will give an overview of the moving panorama tradition in mid-19th-century America; Hardiman’s essay will detail the unique history and remarkable adventures of the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress, and Routhier’s essay will explore the artistic underpinnings of the panorama by examining the early work of panorama artists Frederic Edwin Church, Jasper Cropsey, Daniel Huntington, and others.

Please follow this blog to receive updates about the panorama book project, or contact Jessica Skwire Routhier directly for more information.

About the Dyer Library and Saco Museum

The Saco Museum is a regional museum of fine and decorative arts and historic artifacts that was founded as the York Institute in 1866; the Dyer Library Association, operating the museum and a public library, is a private, non-profit 501(c)(3). Together, the library and museum share the mission to “promote life-long learning and appreciation of culture; preservation of the past; and state-of-the-art services and resources for all.” The Saco Museum’s collection is the largest and most comprehensive repository anywhere of the rich material culture of the Saco River Valley, including important Federal furniture, major portraits by John Brewster, Jr,  the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress (currently on view) , the earliest known American camera, and other artifacts connected to southern Maine. For more information:

About the University Press of New England

University Press of New England is an award-winning university press supported by a consortium of schools: Brandeis UniversityDartmouth CollegeUniversity of New Hampshire, and Northeastern UniversityFounded in 1970, UPNE is a unique publishing consortium based at Dartmouth College, the host institution. UPNE has earned a reputation for excellence in scholarly, instructional, reference, literary and artistic, and general-interest books. Many of these are published cooperatively with one of the member institutions and carry a joint imprint. Others are published under the University Press of New England imprint. The publishing program reflects strengths in the humanities, liberal arts, fine, decorative, and performing arts, literature, New England culture, and interdisciplinary studies. The Press publishes and distributes more than eighty titles annually, with sales of more than $2.5 million. A professional staff of twenty-four maintains high standards in editorial, design and production, marketing, order fulfillment, and business operations. For more information:

About the Authors

Jessica Skwire Routhier, former Director of the Saco Museum, led a major project to preserve and interpret the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress in 2012. She has written extensively on regional artistic traditions in Maine, including dedicated publications on landscape painters Charles Codman and Harrison Bird Brown and articles in Antiques and Antiques and Fine Art magazines, among others.  Ms. Routhier has also worked in the curatorial departments of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Portland Museum of Art, Maine, and serves as President of Maine Archives and Museums, dedicated to supporting and promoting Maine’s collecting institutions. She is a writer, editor, and independent museum professional.

Kevin J. Avery is a former curator of American paintings and sculpture at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; he remains affiliated with the Met as a researcher. Dr. Avery is also a professor of Art History at Hunter College of the City University of New York. He is the author of John Vanderlyn’s Panoramic View of the Palace and Gardens of Versailles, 1988; Church’s Great Picture: The Heart of the Andes, 1993; Hudson River School Visions, 2003; and Treasures from Olana: Landcapes by Frederic Edwin Church, 2005. A chapter of Dr. Avery’s doctoral dissertation for Columbia University was dedicated to the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress, then thought to be lost.

Thomas Hardiman, Jr., is the Keeper of the Portsmouth Athenaeum, New Hampshire and the former curator of the Saco Museum. He is credited with rescuing the panorama and connecting it to the panorama of Dr. Avery’s earlier research. Hardiman has written and lectured extensively about the art and material culture of northern New England, including an influential Antiques magazine article establishing a body of work for southern Maine cabinetmakers Joshua Cumston and David Buckminster.

THIS PUBLICATION PROJECT has received generous support from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art and the Maine Arts Commission. For a full list of funders for the 2012 campaign to preserve and interpret the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress, please see the Project Partners page on this site.

That’s a Wrap

November 13, 2012

The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress, coming down.

At the Saco Museum:

Left to right: Tara Vose Raiselis, Saco Museum Director; John Morrill Read, Dyer Library/Saco Museum trustee; and Leslie Rounds, Executive Director of the Dyer Library/Saco Museum.

At Pepperell Mills:

Left to right: Tara, John, Leslie, and Anna Kelley, Panorama Fellow.

What a great run!  Thanks helpers, funders, visitors, scholars.  What a pleasure and a privilege to connect with you all these past four months.

Tonight: Last Chance to See Performance of Panorama

November 2, 2012

Over 500 people this summer and full have been amazed by the theatrical production of the 800 foot long replica of the Pilgrim’s Progress Panorama in motion. The show features music and a riveting narration — just as the original was meant to be seen — at 6:30 pm, today, Friday, November 2, at Saco City Hall, 300 Main Street.
Also, for this performance only, pianist extraordinaire Jeff Rapsis will be joined by narrator Will Rankin. A crew of volunteers will be rolling 42 beautiful images across the historic Saco City Hall stage.
The historic panorama–800 feet of vibrantly painted muslin canvas, in four sections–is on view in two downtown locations, the Saco Museum and the historic Pepperell Mills. This exhibition closes on November 10, so make sure you get there this week. Join the 3000 people who have seen this amazing 1851 painting.
Live performances of a full-scale, modern photographic replica recreate the historic experience of seeing a moving panorama in action, and a new web-based film animation has introduced the panorama to a global audience.
So be there Friday when the Saco Museum presents the fourth and final performance of the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress. A full house of 200 loved the show on Sept. 21, as well as the backstage tour of the mechanism. $5 is a suggested donation at the door. Please consider joining us.

There’s lots more information about the project, including pictures and video, at:


October 16, 2012

It’s been a great fall for art-historical conversations in Maine. A month ago, as recorded on this blog, some 40 art historians and others gathered at Saco City Hall for a day of conversation about the Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress and the moving panorama tradition. A breakout session that day was a prelude to a meeting of the Maine Historians of American Art at the Portland Museum of Art the next week. And then on Sunday, October 14, many of the same individuals—plus what looked like at least 100 others—met at the PMA once again for an afternoon dedicated to discussing Winslow Homer’s late seascapes, the subject of the current exhibition at the PMA.

Winslow Homer, Weatherbeaten, Portland Museum of Art

All the presentations—by Karen Sherry, Wanda Corn, and Marc Simpson—were fantastic, but it was something Marc Simpson said that got me thinking specifically about panoramas. Homer’s late seascapes were, for the most part, painted at his studio on Prouts Neck, Maine, and were the result of direct observation of the surf crashing on the rocks right there in his front yard. The paintings were something of a departure for Homer, whose previous work had almost invariably included prominent human figures, and both he and his dealers knew it. There was, apparently—as Simpson demonstrated—a lot of conversation about how to guide the viewing experience of these works so that they would be seen and comprehended in the right way. Letters between Homer and his dealer, M. Knoedler & Co., show that Homer wanted his paintings viewed at a distance in order to heighten the illusion that they created.

I’m paraphrasing, but what I remember is that Homer argued that since he was 60 feet away from the breakers when he painted them, the viewer should be 60 feet away from the painting when viewing the paintings. This was impossible, of course—Knoedler’s gallery wasn’t anywhere near big enough to engender such a viewing experience—but still, Homer hyperbolized effectively enough so that distance was enforced by hanging the paintings relatively high and putting ropes in front of them, preventing people from putting their noses to the canvas in the way that Homer so disparaged.  In fact, in one of his letters he added a cartoon of a man doing exactly that, adding the inscription, “He can’t see it.”

What’s so fascinating about this, to me, is that it stresses how much those late seascapes—even though they are often lauded as gateways to modernism, and even though many of them were, in fact, painted in the early years of the 20th century—are resolutely 19th-century paintings.  As the panelists observed on Sunday, that’s such a 19th-century approach to creating and displaying art: to see it as a window to the world and an illusion that is made more or less effective through tricks of display. Homer’s insistence that his seascapes can only be truly “seen” from a distance reminds me of the way earlier American artists like Frederic Edwin Church chose to display their paintings as stand-alone attractions, housed in ornate frames like theater prosceniums, underscoring the fact that the painting was meant to transport you to another place or time, to create the illusion of being someplace else.  Homer’s paintings were being displayed in midtown Manhattan galleries, but he wanted the viewers to at least momentarily feel as though they were on the piazza of his studio in coastal Maine.

File:Church Heart of the Andes exhibited.jpg

Heart of the Andes, displayedin 1864

The theater-like presentation of works like Church’s Heart of the Andes was very influenced by the panorama tradition, particularly the moving panorama tradition, in which curtains, prosceniums, dramatic lighting, and other theatrical conventions were used to create an illusion of place. As we know, Church had contributed to The Moving Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress just a few years before Heart of the Andes was completed, so he had more than a passing familiarity with the visual tricks of moving panoramas.  What’s interesting here, though, is the tantalizing idea that Homer might have known and employed some of those tricks as well, and that the panoramic heritage in landscape painting, to some degree, may have endured right up through Homer. What remains to be explored is the degree to which Homer intended it to be so.

Born in 1836 and a working man of the world well before the Civil War, Homer surely would have had the chance to see moving panoramas in Boston and New York. He also knew Church’s work and that of others done in the same vein—the kind of “Hudson River School” painting that is so often pointed out as the inheritor of the panorama tradition.  But until the 1880s, when he begins to create his pure seascapes, Homer’s work has little to do with the vast, distant views associated with both panoramas and Hudson River School painting. It’s almost as if the idea lay dormant in him until his Prouts Neck era.  Of course, the Prouts Neck paintings don’t look anything like Church, either (though it’s interesting to point out that their surging waves have some resonance with maritime moving panoramas).  Homer created something entirely new with his Prouts Neck paintings, and I don’t mean to diminish that by calling them 19th-century paintings.  Still, it’s fascinating to learn more about how Homer himself “saw” the works and wanted others to see them. As modern as they may appear, Homer himself always intended these paintings to be seen in a way that has more to do with the 19th century’s tradition of panoramas and “great paintings”—an orchestrated, guided, transportive illusion—than the modernist’s reductive examination of paint on canvas.

I’ll leave it to the Homer scholars to dig through Homer’s correspondence to find out which panoramas, if any, he saw, and what he thought about them, particularly in relation to his own work.  But thanks to Sunday’s presentation, the idea is there, someone’s just got to dress it up and put it on the road. We all agreed that not nearly enough has been written about Homer’s late seascapes; this could be an interesting idea for someone to start to unroll.