Saturday, January 21, 2012

Samuel F.B. Morse at the Louvre

Last week in Washington, we saw a little-known painting by Samuel F.B. Morse. He's well known for the telegraph and Morse code, little known for his early-life career as a painter.

Morse's huge oil painting "Gallery of the Louvre," which he painted during a visit to Europe from 1829-1832, is temporarily on view in the National Gallery of Art. In it he arranged an imaginative view of the works he most valued at the Louvre. He placed them to be of use to students, and painted some of his friends and his daughter in the room where he imagined them.

The National Gallery has hung Morse's work in a large hallway in the center of the museum, along with a very interesting explanation -- and a key to the works. I recognized many of them, but the key is very useful. Above you can see his arrangement of Mona Lisa -- below is Len's photo of the work as we saw it.

Morse based the work on many prior paintings that made a similar collage-like assembly of copies from a single museum's collection. He based his choice of paintings on his own taste and that of his contemporaries. He hoped this work would bring him fame and money, as he planned to exhibit it on a tour of the US. That didn't go as well as he hoped, so he turned to technology and became famous.

For more detail about Morse's paintings and the Louvre's collected works he included, see this website.

1 comment:

Jeanie said...

Well, I can see why THAT one attracted your attention. My dad taught me Morse code as a child -- long forgotten. I didn't know about that, though!