Exhibition features largest painting ever installed at the museum; during preview, ham radio station will broadcast Morse code.
The masterpiece painting of Samuel F. B. Morse, yes the same Samuel F. B. Morse who invented the telegraph and Morse code, forms the core of a new exhibition: “Samuel F. B. Morse’s ‘Gallery of the Louvre’ and the Art of Invention,” on view Feb.17 - June 4, 2017. It is the largest painting ever exhibited at Reynolda House, measuring six-by-nine feet and 280 pounds. Also on view will be early telegraph machines on loan from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, making this the first exhibition of both of Morse’s greatest creations together. The exhibition also includes paintings from the museum’s renowned collection of American art and works from the Wake Forest University collection.
Members of the Forsyth Amateur Radio Club of Winston-Salem will be at the museum broadcasting about the exhibition via Morse code using the call letters N4M. The station will broadcast from 10 a.m.-3 p.m.. The station will also be at the museum on opening day, Friday, Feb. 17.
Thursday, Feb. 16, 10 a.m.-noon
• Phil Archer, Director of Program & Interpretation – the exhibition’s curator will be available to discuss Reynolda’s unique installation of the Morse painting alongside early telegraph machines from the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, old master prints from Wake Forest University, and works from Reynolda House’s renowned collection of nineteenth century paintings and prints.
• Radio Operators Ray Purdom, Fred Horton and Ben Wasilauskas – members of the Forsyth Amateur Radio Club will take turns “talking” in Morse code to other ham radio operators throughout the world. The public will be able to observe these exchanges, see the text translation of the messages being sent and received, and witness how Morse code is still a viable means of communication 180 years after the first telegraph transmission was made.
Reynolda House Museum of American Art (Babcock Wing; enter main entrance)
2250 Reynolda Rd., Winston-Salem, N.C. 27106
The exhibition will be open for media photography and videography during the preview. Please Rsvp to Sarah Smith at 336.758.5524 or email@example.com.
#RHMorse on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
“Samuel F. B. Morse’s ‘Gallery of the Louvre’ and the Art of Invention” includes early telegraph machines from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, 19th-century paintings and prints from Reynolda’s own nationally recognized collection and old master prints from Wake Forest University. Reynolda House is the only venue for this exhibition in the southeastern United States.
Long-distance communication was the shared purpose of both Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre” and his telegraph. Begun while he was living in Paris in 1831, he conceived the painting as a way to introduce European masterpieces to American audiences decades before the founding of art museums in the United States.
The massive six-by-nine foot canvas pictures 38 Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces, which Morse considered to be the finest works inside the Louvre. He painstakingly copied in miniature Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and work by Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Rubens, Tintoretto, Titian, and other celebrated artists, then imaginatively ‘installed’ the works in the Louvre’s majestic Salon Carré. His arrangement of the old master miniatures within his own painting was done to demonstrate differences in styles and techniques among the artists.
Morse centers himself in the painting’s foreground as an instructor and, figuratively, as a link between European art of the past and America’s cultural future. He is seen tutoring a young art student as she works on her own copy of one of the masterpieces before her. Morse’s good friend, author James Fenimore Cooper, can be glimpsed with his wife and daughter in the left corner.
“Gallery of the Louvre” was a purely academic undertaking for Morse, befitting his role as painting professor and founder of the National Academy in New York. His plan was to send the painting on a national tour after its completion in 1833. When the tour did not materialize, Morse relinquished his creativity to perfecting his telegraph.
The painting set a record for an American work of art at the time of its last purchase in 1982: $3.25 million (more than $8.1 million in today’s dollars). In 2015, a national tour commenced, the much-delayed culmination of Morse’s original intent.
Another highlight of the exhibition will be important works from the collection of Reynolda House Museum of American Art. More than 20 paintings and prints by the 19th century’s leading artists, including William Merritt Chase, Thomas Cole, John Singleton Copley, Edward Hicks, Charles Willson Peale and Gilbert Stuart, serve to explore themes of America’s cultural identity.
Old master prints, among them work by Rembrandt and van Dyck, will be on loan to the exhibition from Wake Forest University’s collection. Prints like these were used in the 17th century in the same way that Morse intended his canvas to instruct and show art two centuries later.
The show’s final element, early telegraphs, affirms that Morse was an astute bridge between old and new, cleverly moving from painter to inventor. As the Reynolda House Museum of American Art exhibition will show, he used wooden canvas stretcher bars from his studio to construct his earliest versions of the telegraph.
"Samuel F.B. Morse’s 'Gallery of the Louvre' and the Art of Invention" was organized by and with support from the Terra Foundation for American Art. Reynolda House Museum of American Art is grateful for support of the exhibition from Major Co-Sponsors Wake Forest Innovation Quarter and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center; Contributing Sponsor the Terra Foundation for American Art; and Exhibition Partners Joia Johnson and Jeff and Sissy Whittington.