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Gettysburg trip inspires Civil War diorama at Penn Hills library

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By Patrick Varine

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

The field where the Battle of Gettysburg took place, and the area surrounding it, was so inspiring to artist John Rhoads that he began working with a new medium in order to recreate it.

Rhoads, an acrylic painter who specializes in landscapes, created a diorama of one of the battle's seminal moments, Pickett's Charge, which is on display through Oct. 8 at the William E. Anderson Library of Penn Hills.

Rhoads, a former Plum resident now living in Saltsburg, said a trip he took to Gettysburg got him interested in Civil War art.

“I have about eight Civil War paintings on display at the library as well,” Rhoads said.

The diorama is the centerpiece of the exhibit, however: it is a 6-by-61⁄2-foot model featuring 300 painted soldiers, which took Rhoads about four months to construct.

“I looked at maps and took a lot of photos when I was out (in Gettysburg),” Rhoads said. “I tried to make sure that things like Seminary Ridge, Mead's headquarters and things like that were all in the right place.”

The diorama depicts Pickett's Charge. The maneuver came on the battle's third day, when Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee ordered three rebel generals to join Lt. Gen James Longstreet in a July 3, 1863, charge on the Union army's position.

The Union army repelled the attack, inflicting heavy rebel casualties and ending the Battle of Gettysburg.

Rhoads said that, as a history buff, he always has collected material related to this country's wars.

“And as far as the Civil War, we have so much in this country as far as battlefields, it interested me very much,” he said.

The diorama is for sale as well.

Rhoads said anyone interested in his art is welcome to take a business card from the library with his contact information.

The exhibit can be viewed at the library, located at 1037 Stotler Road.

For more information, call 412-795-3507.

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com.

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