Marcus Mote, born on June 19, 1817 in Miami County, Ohio, was a self-taught artist who pursued a career in painting from his studio in Lebanon. He was very talented and was able to achieve great success throughout his lifetime. However, today he is not only known for his artistic ability, but also for his Quaker heritage. Even though Quakers were critical of art, Mote was able to harmonize his conservative culture with the progressive ideas of the 19th century in his creation of four panoramas during the 1850’s.
A panorama is a piece of artwork that is considered to be an ancestor of a modern day film. It consisted of a series of painted scenes, each about nine feet high and fifteen to sixteen feet wide, which together would create a story. The scenes would slowly rotate around a hidden mechanism, and as the scenes passed, the story was told by a narrator, called a professor.
Marcus Mote’s first panorama debuted on May 9, 1853 in Lebanon Court House to a large audience. It was a recreation of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Thus, it portrayed the story of Uncle Tom, a slave, and the harsh reality of his life. Mote’s panorama was successful in staying true to the novel’s plot; however, his artistic talent truly exemplified the deep emotions felt by the characters. The panorama’s first public appearance was overshadowed by another panorama exhibit in the area, but it nevertheless received glowing critical reviews.
Mote’s second panorama was based off of Milton’s poems Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. These two poems are descriptions of the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. It premiered on October 14, 1853, about six months after the debut of his first panorama. It also received sterling reviews, especially for Mote’s portrayal of the lush Garden of Eden.
The third panorama, titled the Geological History of the Course of Creation, was Mote’s largest. It was comprised of a total of forty scenes, which were painted on a total of six thousand square feet of canvas. It was inspired by the eternal beauty of Niagara Falls, and required him to do considerable research into geology and paleontology. This research allowed him to create what he believed to be a comprehensive history of the earth and the creation of mankind. Mote was commended for his ability to harmonize the biblical representation of creation and the version maintained by geologists. Its presentation included music directed by a man known as Professor Schuler, and the panorama was very well received by a large audience.
Mote’s fourth and final panorama was a series of scenes promoting the virtues of temperance. For its debut, Mote hired Luximon Roy, an eccentric East Indian prince, to narrate the panorama as well as to share aspects of his culture. The enthusiastic audience considered by the painting as well as the lecture to be brilliant. This panorama was also at a later time narrated by the famous temperature lecturer M.M. Edwards of Cincinnati.
The creation of these four panoramas was a major stepping stone for Mote’s career. The popularity that he attained by creating panoramas stayed with him as he moved on to portraiture and landscapes. Unfortunately, none of these four panoramas exist today. However, from the numerous glowing reviews and descriptions that do exist today, it is evident that he was very talented as well as beloved by the people of Lebanon.
Written by Kaitlyn Barnes
Various staff and volunteer writers.