Skip to content

Samuel Morse’s “Gallery Of The Louvre” A Story Made For Any History Class

August 11, 2011

Long time readers know I love history, and think often of how I would teach a classroom about the great stories of the past.  When I learn something new that strikes my curiosity, and makes me want to better understand it myself–that is when I know a classroom would be the perfect place to spread the love of learning to others.

The latest example…

This spring I gave James the latest book by historian David McCullough, The Greater Journey: Americans in ParisWithin the pages is the most remarkable story about Samuel Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre.

At the time Morse made his painting there were no places in the states for people to gather and view art.  So when Morse traveled to Paris to learn and grow as a person he fell in love with art and painting.  (Had he mastered painting he may never have been known for the Morse code.)

As David McCullough explains in his book Morse was going to bring the culture of Europe  to the United States.  He was concentrating on the Renaissance Italian masterpieces in the Louvre collection.  To achieve this Morse sat and painted a large red-colored room, its walls hung with numerous works of art.  While all the works are at the Louvre, they are  not in the same room.

Morse selected the pieces that he thought Americans, who had never seen such beauty before in 1830, should be able to finally see.

“He came every day the museum was open. As soon as it opened he was in there at work, and he stayed as long as they would allow him. He was a determined man. And he had hoped this painting was going to make his career, but also get him out of debt,” McCullough says. “He was going to put it on exhibit and charge admission fees. Well, it didn’t work. The crowds did not come. And then he sold it for much, much less than he ever anticipated. But years later, in the 1980s, that painting sold for over $3 million, which was the largest sum ever paid — until then — the largest sum ever paid for an American work of art.”

In the painting it should be noted that Morse himself (bending over the shoulder of an unidentified student) and James Fenimore Cooper, wife and daughter, are shown.  Cooper and Morse were good friends.

Don’t you love this stuff?!

One Comment
  1. December 7, 2011 8:54 PM

    I DO love this stuff! And, like you, I feel I want to teach a class everytime I learn something ‘new’ & amazing…which is often! Thanks for sharing!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: