Long Hidden From View, Longest Painting in North America—’Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World’—Returns
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Long Hidden From View, Longest Painting in North America—’Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World’—Returns

Benjamin Russell and Caleb Purrington, The Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World (detail), ca. 1848, tempera on cotton sheeting. COURTESY NEW BEDFORD WHALING MUSEUM On July 14, an artwork equal in length to 14 blue whales placed in a line will go on display in its entirety for the first time in more than half a century. Incidentally, those colossal creatures are central to the work. At 1,275 feet long, the Grand Panorama of a Whaling Voyage ‘Round the World , which was painted in 1848 in New Bedford, Massachusetts by Benjamin Russell, an artist and merchant, and Caleb Purrington, a sign painter, is the longest painting in North America, according to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which is staging the work’s big return. The sprawling piece—which was conceived in five separate segments—was donated to the museum in 1918 by Benjamin Cummings, a grocer in New Bedford whose acquisition of the Panorama remains mysterious. In 1972, Philip F. Purrington, a curator at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, wrote that Cummings’s “possession of the paintings seemed of such casual interest that no record exists of when or how he came to acquire them.” According to the museum’s […]

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