• Reynolda House Press Room

    Reynolda Press Room

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Series of Talks, Symposium, Free Community Day Highlight Reynolda House Spring Exhibition Season with Samuel F.B. Morse

Winston-Salem, NC—Reynolda House Museum of American Art will host a series of talks, a scholarly symposium, and a free community day as part of its spring exhibition “Samuel F.B. Morse’s ‘Gallery of the Louvre’ and the Art of Invention.” Tickets and registration for all events are available online at reynoldahouse.org/morse.
Lecture: “Americans in Paris: Foundations of America’s Architectural Gilded Age” with author Margot Ellis 
Date/Time: Thursday, March 2, 5:30 p.m.
Cost: $15; museum members and students $10
Light hors d’oeuvres and wine will be served, followed by the presentation at 6 p.m.

The École des Beaux-Arts in Paris was renowned as one of the great art and architecture schools and inspired the international Beaux-Arts architectural movement. Known for demanding classwork and setting the highest standards, the École attracted students from around the world, including the United States, where students returned to design buildings that would influence the history of architecture in America, including the Boston Public Library, the New York Public Library, and Biltmore. Historian Margot M. Ellis will present an illustrated overview of the work of American architects who studied at the famous school before going on to design and build many of the nation’s most important buildings and monuments. This event is co-sponsored by the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art, North Carolina Chapter.

Lecture: “The Early Modern Museum: An Empire of Things”
The Biennial Clonts Lecture with Paula Findlen
Date/Time: March 23, 5:30 p.m.
Cost: Admission is free.

Paula Findlen, chair of the department of history at Stanford University, seeks answers to such questions as: What can we learn about the past by studying things? How does the meaning of things, and our relationship to them, change over time? A leading historian of the material culture of the early modern world (c. 1500–1800), Findlen traces the ambiguous development of public art collections, the ways they were subsequently consumed, and the power they exerted on the Western imagination, up to and including that of a young Calvinist by the name of Samuel F.B. Morse. In 2016, Findlen was awarded the Premio Galileo Prize from the Fondazione Premio Internazionale Galileo Galilei for her work on the history of science in the Renaissance.

The Clonts Lecture is offered every other year honoring Forrest W. Clonts, former Wake Forest University professor of history, and is sponsored by his family. This event is sponsored by the department of history of Wake Forest University.

Symposium: Samuel F.B. Morse and the Transmission of Culture
Date/Time: Sunday, April 1, 1–4 p.m.
Cost: $15; museum members, Wake Forest employees, and students free

This symposium will explore the cultural and educational ambitions behind Samuel Morse’s monumental gallery painting of the Musée du Louvre through three scholarly talks:

  • “The Dream of American Civilization” Paul Staiti, Alumnae Foundation Professor of Fine Arts at Mount Holyoke College and author of the acclaimed biography Samuel F.B. Morse, will address Morse’s desire to remedy what he perceived as the deficiencies of American arts and letters. Using two of Morse’s largest accomplishments, the founding of the National Academy of Design and Gallery of the Louvre, Staiti will describe the cultural milieu of the early 1830s, which he believes was conditioned both by anti-intellectual Jacksonian populism and widespread faith in technology (over art or culture) as the source of national improvement.
  • “The Forest of the Old Masters: The Chiaroscuro of American Places” Alexander Nemerov is Carl and Marilynn Thoma Provostial Professor in the Arts and Humanities at Stanford University. Nemerov has written studies of Raphaelle Peale, George Ault, Diane Arbus, and Lewis Hine. His talk will compare and contrast notions held by Morse and James Fenimore Cooper of dependence and independence, emulation of European precedents, and invention of distinctly American art.
  • “Toward a Museum without Walls: Gallery of the Louvre and the Origins of Photography” John J. Curley, assistant professor of modern and contemporary art and the history of photography at Wake Forest University, will draw connections to Morse’s photography, suggesting that Gallery of the Louvre may be thought of as a kind of “camera obscura” projecting the Old Masters across space and time. Curley is author of A Conspiracy of Images: Andy Warhol, Gerhard Richter, and the Art of the Cold War, published by Yale University Press in 2013.

Lecture: “James Fenimore Cooper at the Louvre: The American Writer and the Museum World”
Date/Time: Sunday, April 9 at 3 p.m.
Cost: Free with Museum admission of $14

An endless parade of American writers and painters lingered in the Louvre during the 19th century. In 1887, Henry James wrote, “It sounds like a paradox, but it is a very simple truth, that when today we look for ‘American art’ we find it mainly in Paris. When we find it out of Paris, we at least find a great deal of Paris in it.” In the 1830s, the expatriate community in Paris revolved around James Fenimore Cooper, author of The Pioneers and The Last of the Mohicans, and his inseparable friend Samuel F.B. Morse. Dr. Barry Maine, professor of English at Wake Forest University, will explain Cooper’s presence in Gallery of the Louvre and the “great deal of Paris” to be found in American literature of the period.

Community Day: Americans in Paris
Date/Time: Saturday, April 29, 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Cost: Admission is free.

Join friends and neighbors for this free community festival evoking a spring afternoon in the parks of Paris. Visitors of all ages will be encouraged to see the exhibition of “Samuel F.B. Morse’s ‘Gallery of the Louvre’ and the Art of Invention” and express their own creativity through hands-on art activities including a chance to “be the curator” of an ideal gallery or take home a Morse code souvenir. Among the groves and flowering gardens of Reynolda, visitors will find Parisian refreshments, dance performances, and artists working in the Museum and en plein air. Community Day is sponsored by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty.

About the Exhibition
The masterpiece of Samuel F.B. Morse, yes that Samuel F.B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph and namesake Morse code, forms the core of “Samuel F.B. Morse’s ‘Gallery of the Louvre’ and the Art of Invention,” on view at Reynolda House Feb.17–June 4, 2017. The show 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. Morse’s monumental painting—also his last—was little seen by the public until recently. 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.

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. 

“Samuel F.B. Morse’sGallery 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.

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About Reynolda House Museum of American Art

Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is recognized as a rare gem among the nation’s cultural institutions. The museum presents an exceptional collection of art by America’s most noted artists in an incomparable setting:  the 1917 American country home of Katharine and Richard Joshua (R. J.) Reynolds. Spanning 250 years of painting, prints, sculpture, photography and video art, the collection has been guided with the prescient and unerring eye of Barbara Babcock Millhouse, granddaughter of Katharine and R. J. Reynolds. Highlights include important works by Albert Bierstadt, William Merritt Chase, Frederic Edwin Church, Chuck Close, Stuart Davis, Arthur Dove, Martin Johnson Heade, Lee Krasner, Georgia O’Keeffe, Nam June Paik, Martin Puryear, Gilbert Stuart and Grant Wood. In addition to its collection of fine art, Reynolda House also holds decorative arts and estate archive collections and mounts exhibitions from all periods in the 2005 Charles and Mary Babcock Wing. Established in 1967 and now affiliated with Wake Forest University, the museum will mark two anniversaries in 2017—the 50th of its founding and the 100th of the completion of its estate—with major exhibitions and events. The complete Reynolda experience includes Reynolda Gardens, composed of formal gardens, walking trails and wetlands, and Reynolda Village, now an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants in many of the estate’s original buildings. For more information, please visit reynoldahouse.org.