Tuesday, October 28, 2014
Samuel F. B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre” and the Art of Invention
Samuel F. B. Morse’s monumental paintingGallery of the Louvre will embark on a multi-year tour across the United States in January. Kicking off at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, in San Marino, CA (January 24–April 20, 2015), the tour will visit nine museums across the country, including venues in Fort Worth, TX; Bentonville, AR; Detroit, MI; Salem, MA; and Winston-Salem, NC.
The exhibition, Samuel F. B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre” and the Art of Invention, is the culmination of the painting’s extensive conservation treatment in 2010 and two years of scholarly investigation.
It will be accompanied by an anthology of the same title, published by the Terra Foundation and distributed by Yale University Press.
“We are delighted to host the kickoff of this extraordinary tour,” said Kevin Salatino, director of the art collections at The Huntington. “And Gallery of the Louvre is particularly fitting here, where our collections span the history of American art as well that of science and technology—interests shared with Morse himself. Los Angeles audiences are sure to be fascinated in many ways by this gem of an exhibition.”
Exhibition tour dates are as follows:
Known today primarily for his role in the development of the electromagnetic telegraph and his namesake code, Samuel Morse began his career as a painter. Created between 1831 and 1833 in Paris and New York, Gallery of the Louvre was Morse’s masterwork and the culmination of his studies in Europe.
“Morse’s ‘gallery picture,’ a form first popularized in the seventeenth century, is the only major example of such in the history of American art,” says Peter John Brownlee, curator at the Terra Foundation. “For this canvas, Morse selected masterpieces from the Louvre’s collection and imaginatively ‘reinstalled’ them in one of the museum’s grandest spaces, the Salon Carré.”
In addition to highlighting renowned works by the Old Masters, Gallery of the Louvre serves as a painted treatise on artistic practice, positioning Morse, depicted as the centrally placed instructor in the work, as a link between European art of the past and America’s cultural future.
In 2010 Gallery of the Louvre underwent a six-month conservation treatment in the studio of Lance Mayer and Gay Myers, specialists in American painting who have restored such major works as Emanuel Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851; Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Rembrandt Peale’s The Court of Death (1824; Detroit Institute of Arts). The conservation repaired damages that had occurred over time and yielded insight into Morse’s working methods.
“The conservation treatment greatly improved the overall look of the Gallery of the Louvre and confirmed that Morse was as fearless an experimenter with painting media as he was with the daguerreotype and the electromagnetic telegraph later in his career,” added Brownlee.
The painting’s conservation was documented in the 30-minute video A New Look: Samuel F. B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre,” produced by Sandpail Productions for the Terra Foundation. The video provides information about Morse’s career, as well as paintings depicted in the picture, and features interviews with conservators, curators at the Terra Foundation and the Musée du Louvre, and other specialists, including Morse scholar Paul J. Staiti, Alumnae Foundation Professor of Fine Arts at Mount Holyoke College.
From 2011 to 2013, the painting was exhibited for extended periods at the Yale University Art Gallery,
the National Gallery of Art,
and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where it was the subject of scholarly investigation and dialogue.