Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872)

Gallery of the Louvre, 1831–33

Oil on canvas, 73 3/4 x 108 in. (187.3 x 274.3 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.51

Besides being the inventor of the electromagnetic telegraph, Samuel F. B. Morse had a distinguished career as a painter and art educator in New York in the early and mid-nineteenth century. While serving as the first president of the National Academy of Design, then America’s foremost art school and exhibition venue, Morse traveled to Europe to study masterpieces. In Paris, he began his most ambitious painting, Gallery of the Louvre, a visual guide to the highlights of Europe’s premier art collection, and a painted treatise on artistic training. He intended the painting to inform Americans about Europe’s artistic heritage and to inspire them to build on its legacy as they developed the young nation’s cultural identity. Morse completed the painting in New York in 1833, but its public reception was discouraging. Today, however, Gallery of the Louvre is recognized as a key work in the development of American art.

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