Heinrich Caesar Berann, the painter who made maps mindblowing. One map took him a decade to paint.

Detail: Heinrich Berann NPS Panorama of North Cascades. 1987.

“There’s just something absolutely magical about his panoramas,” said Tom Patterson, a senior cartographer with the U.S. National Park Service. 

To say Heinrich Caesar Berann (1915-1999) made maps is a bit like saying Muhammed Ali could fight a bit. Berann rewrote (or rather redrew) the mapmaking rulebook. An Austrian painter/cartographer, Berann combined modern cartography with classical painting to create maps the like of which had never been thought of yet alone seen. They were as beautiful to look at as they were easy to use. He created his unique maps for Olympic Games sites, for National Geographic and for the U.S. National Parks Service.  

In 1967, Heinrich Berann, the father of modern cartographic panorama painted the first in a series of plan oblique physiographic maps of the earth’s ocean floor in collaboration with Marie Tharp and Bruce Heezan. It took a deacade. The 1977 World Ocean Floor Map revolutionized existing theories of plate tectonics and continental drift.
Berann’s Everest map.
Heinrich Berann with one of his cartographic masterpieces in progress behind him.
This image demonstrates that Berann used truly mammoth sized canvases to make his maps. Each map U.S. National Parks map would take a couple of years.
The 1977 ocean floors map took a decade.

During his long career Berann produced over a hundred maps and had an association with the Olympic Games that lasted over half a century, producing maps for them in 1956, 1960, 1964, 1976, 1984 and 1998. He also produced ski trail maps for winter sports resorts all over Europe, particularly in Austria, Switzerland, Germany and France.

In 1962 Berann painted Mount Everest for National Geographic, going on to create over 20 maps for the society including Everest, Mont Blanc, the Himalayas, Nepal and the Leeward Islands. His 1977 World Ocean Floor Map took a decade to paint and revolutionized existing theories of plate tectonics and continental drift.

Toward the end of his life, Berann began work on what would be his magnum opus; four panoramas for the U.S. National Parks Service. 

North Cascades National Park (1987), Yosemite National Park (1989), Yellowstone National Park (1991) and lastly Denalia National Park and Reserve (1994).

Berann died in 1999 at age 84 in Lans, Tyrol, where he had lived since 1952.

Panorama of North Cascade National Park painted by Heinrich C. Berann.. 1987.

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Panorama of Yellowstone National Park painted by Heinrich C. Berann.. 1991.

Panorama of Yosemite National Park painted by Heinrich C. Berann.. 1989.

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Panorama of Denali National Park and Preserve painted by Heinrich C. Berann. 1994.

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François Levaillant.