World famous artist buried at Mt. Hope Cemetary

WATERTOWN, S.D.(KXLG)- An old grave at Mt. Hope cemetery contains the remains of a world-famous artist who is all but unknown to most Watertown residents.

That artist is John Banvard, who was born in New York but moved to Watertown late to live with his son. Banvard was best known for his “three-mile-long” panoramic painting of the Mississippi River Valley. He toured the world displaying the huge spooled painting. It premiered in Boston in 1846, and he then took it to New York City and Europe, Asia, and Africa. He even gave Queen Victoria a private viewing at Buckingham Palace.

One man who knows about Banvard was in Watertown this week researching the artist. Nicholas Lowe, a professor of historic preservation at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, will give a presentation on Banvard and other panorama artists from American history at the International Panorama Council Conference this fall at the University of Iowa.

Lowe, a native of England, spoke with KXLG News while visiting the Codington County Heritage Museum and said his research has been interesting.

Panorama paintings were generally on a large spool and unrolled for audiences to see. The art form all but died out when motion pictures were introduced.

Lowe also said moving panoramas played a crucial role in the settlement of the American West by showing people what the landscape was like.

While Banvard’s painting was advertised as three miles long, experts say it was about a half-mile long. None of it is known to exist today because many panoramas from that era were discarded or shredded to use as insulation in homes. Two of Banyards regular paintings are displayed at the Mellette House in Watertown.