Heinrich Berann, the father of the modern cartographic panorama
March 2, 2013 9:43 PM   Subscribe

Heinrich Caesar Berann is known as the father of the modern cartographic panorama and is also credited as the most prolific panorama artist ever. His style and work could be credited with the lasting appeal of stylized panoramic maps that often feature exaggerated or distorted features as the preferred map type for ski resorts and trails (PDF) but Berann's true passion was art, as seen in these collections of his paintings and drawings found on the tribute site maintained by his grandson, Matthias Troyer.

Berann was self-taught, learning by trial and error. Though he came from an artistic family, his father was not supportive of his efforts. The struggling artist's future was guided in part by winning first prize in a competition to paint a newly opened mountain pass in 1934.

In the late 1970s, Berann worked with Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezen to depict not the peaks of the world, but the troughs, in what became the 1977 World Ocean Floor Panorama.

Berann retired in 1994, but his legacy lives on through his apprentice of 40 years, Heinz Vielkind, who has taken on his own apprentice to carry on the traditions. Veilkind licensed Berann's name and trademark signature, adding “NF” (nachfolger—”successor” in English). Heinrich Berann died in 1999, at the age of 83, having completed the panorama of Denali National Park a mere 5 years earlier. His last years were devoted to fine art, his true passion.

Tom Patterson, working for the U.S. National Park Service, studied and evaluated Berann's style in detail, including his unorthodox habit of rotating mountains and widening valleys and his unique interpretations of vertical exaggeration, with the goal of adapting some of Berann's styles to computer-generated imagery. Also noted in the extensive review of Berann's work is his selection of vantage points based on visual appeal, instead of presenting the panorama as a view looking north as one would generally expect from a map, and his signature unearthly clouds, which differ from panorama to panorama. (Note, this page also includes high quality images of Berann's maps for Denali, Yosemite, North Cascades, and Yellowstone, as well as a very high quality image of Yellowstone).
posted by filthy light thief (6 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
If you're interested in Berann's art at all, Tom Patterson's research and review of Berann's work is fantastic, and includes some images comparing the paintings with the digital elevation maps, showing how Berann exaggerated certain features and shifted others around a bit, to make a more appealing and legible image over-all, though it is then less accurate.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:50 PM on March 2, 2013

I live in a ski resort where ski runs snake and wind 360' around a central mountain, and have often idly wondered about the skill that must go into drawing a map that retains very recognisable features at the same time as showing routes unobstructed, from a universal viewpoint that doesn't actually exist.

Another thing that strikes me, on looking at those wonderful maps on the last link, is that they really conjure some of that sense of expansive delight one feels after climbing a mountain and stopping to reward onself with the view. It's a sense that I've always found exceptionally hard to capture in any wide angle shots when I've gone to the trouble a hefting a camera and tripod with me to take photos from mountain peaks.

This is a most excellent and fascinating post, thank you so much filthy light thief.
posted by protorp at 10:46 PM on March 2, 2013

Every time we've been to the Dolomites, I've always been fascinated by how intrinsically hand-painted (rather than computer-mapped) these panoramas looked, and boggled by the type and amount of work I imagined they required. So great to find out who's the eye/mind/hand behind this genre. (The only other genre of imagery that I've found similarly wondrous is entomological illustration.) His successor using the master's name plus NF - priceless. Brilliant post, diving in now. Btw: is there anywhere to see his fine art work?
posted by progosk at 11:48 PM on March 2, 2013

is there anywhere to see his fine art work?

erm, as I said, diving in now...

posted by progosk at 1:05 AM on March 3, 2013

I love this type of illustration, but could never find out the generic term for it. Now I know.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:26 AM on March 3, 2013

(Oh: to lose yourself even more in this niche of map-making, there's a vast trove of papers on the subject - with many mentions of Berann - available at mountaincartography.org ...)
posted by progosk at 1:53 AM on March 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

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