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New Britain Museum of American Art displays monumental masterpiece by Samuel F.B. Morse
Samuel F. B. Morse, Gallery of the Louvre, 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.

NEW BRITAIN, CONN.- The New Britain Museum of American Art is presenting the forthcoming exhibition Samuel F.B. Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre” and the Art of Invention, on view in the Don and Virginia Davis Gallery through October 15, 2017. This exhibition showcases Morse’s monumental painting Gallery of the Louvre (1831–1833), on loan from the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago, following its extensive conservation treatment in 2010 and two years of scholarly investigation. Also included is Morse’s preparatory work Frances I, Study for “Gallery of the Louvre” (1831¬–1832). The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue published by the Terra Foundation and distributed by Yale University Press.

Known today primarily for his role in the development of the electromagnetic telegraph and his namesake code, Samuel F.B. Morse also had a successful painting career. Created in Paris and New York, Gallery of the Louvre is Morse’s masterwork and the result of his studies in Europe. According to Peter John Brownlee, curator at the Terra Foundation, “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. For this canvas, Morse selected masterpieces from the Musée du 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—who depicted himself 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 (1820; 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," notes Brownlee. Mayer and Myers, based in New London, Connecticut, will discuss this extensive project at the Museum’s program An Evening with Gay Myers and Lance Mayer on September 14, 2017, at 5:30 p.m.

The New Britain Museum of American Art is the exhibition’s eighth stop in its multi-year tour of the United States, having previously been displayed at the Huntington Library’s Art Collections and Botanical Gardens (San Marino, California), the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (Fort Worth, Texas), the Seattle Art Museum (Seattle, Washington), the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (Bentonville, Arkansas), the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan), the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, Massachusetts), and the Reynolda House Museum of American Art (Winston-Salem, North Carolina).

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