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Gallery of the Louvre

January 23 – April 18, 2016

Samuel F. B. Morse, Gallery of the Louvre (detail)
Samuel F. B. Morse, Gallery of the Louvre (detail), 1831–33, oil on canvas, Image: 73 3/4 x 108 in. (187.3 x 274.3 cm), Frame: 88 3/4 x 123 in. (225.4 x 312.4 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Collection, 1992.51 Photography, ©Terra Foundation for American Art, Chicago

Known today primarily for his role in the development of the electromagnetic telegraph and Morse code, Samuel F. B. Morse began his career as a painter. One of his most important works is Gallery of the Louvre, now in the collection of the Terra Foundation for American Art. In 1829, Morse embarked upon a three-year period of study in Paris.

This culminated in the monumental Gallery of the Louvre, in which the artist chose masterpieces from the Louvre’s collection and depicted them as if they had been exhibited together in one of the museum’s grandest spaces.Gallery of the Louvre is a painting of visual and technical complexity, bringing together Morse’s artistic and scientific pursuits and revealing an adoration of the old masters as well as the artist’s Calvinist worldview and conservative cultural politics. Morse showedGallery of the Louvre as a single-painting exhibition only twice—in New York City and New Haven, Connecticut—where it was praised by critics and connoisseurs but failed to capture the imagination of the public. Crushed by the lukewarm public response, Morse soon ceased painting altogether, moving on to his more successful experiments with the electromagnetic telegraph, and, most famously, Morse code. Today, after six months of conservation and two years of scholarly study, this impressive work of American art reveals Morse’s fascination with the transmission of information: in both his desire to share masterworks from Europe with the American people, and his invention of Morse code.

Sponsored By

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Terra Foundation for American Art
James Dyke and Helen Porter
David and Cathy Evans Family
Greg Thompson Fine Art