To Trick the Eye : the History and Rediscovery of the Panorama of the Battle of Yser
The Panorama of the battle of the Yser, representing one of the most important battles of the First World War, was painted in 1920-21 by the Belgian artist Alfred Bastien (1873-1955), and his collaborators. At 120 x 15 m, this monumental canvas is one of the largest Belgian paintings, and one of the very last to be created.
In the beginning of the 1950s, the Panorama joined the collections of the Brussels Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History. Exhibited in the museum’s Great Hall until 1982, the giant canvas was taken down, rolled up and stored for some 25 years.
This paper presents the progress made by the Brussels panorama-team in the research, conservation, and valorisation of the Panorama, and explores its role in the commemorations of the First World War in the Brussels Royal Military Museum from 2014 onwards. Due to conservation/restoration issues, the Museum is looking into the possibilities for a virtual reconstruction of the Panorama of the battle of the Yser.
In order to do this, in 2010/11 the museum collaborated with a specialised firm. This paper elaborates on the promising results of this first trial, and aims to explain some of the complex digital techniques that were used to arrive at the results of this test case. Recently, a short documentary film of the 1920s was discovered, showing the artist and his Panorama. The aim of the Brussels Royal Military Museum is to create an immersion space that allows the public to experience a sensorial discovery of the First World War, as fought at the Yser-river in 1914.
Peeters, Natasja and Smets, Sandrine, ‘La guerre vue à 360°: le Panorama de la Bataille de l’Yser d’Alfred Bastien au Musée royal de l’Armée et d’Histoire militaire à Bruxelles’, In : Rochet, Bénédicte and Tixhon, Axel, La petite Belgique dans la Grande Guerre. Une icône, des images, Namur 2012, p. 179-200.
Peeters, Natasja (ed.), Panorama Redevelopment: Restoration and Repositioning, with focus on the Panorama of the Battle of Yser (1920-21), by Alfred Bastien (18th IPC International Panorama Conference), Brussels (to be published 2013).
Peeters, Natasja ‘J.R. Leconte’s paper trail of the Panorama of the battle of the Yser (1949-1951)’, In: Peeters, Natasja (ed.), Panorama Redevelopment: Restoration and Repositioning, with focus on the Panorama of the Battle of Yser (1920-21), by Alfred Bastien (18th IPC International Panorama Conference), Brussels (to be published 2013