Author of "Samuel F.B. Morse" & Professor at Mount Holyoke College
Why did Samuel Morse decide to paint the 'Gallery of the Louvre'? What was he hoping to achieve with this painting?
I think Samuel Morse was trying to stimulate good taste in America, which was lacking in taste at that time. A picture of masterpieces would be one-stop shopping for Americans who didn't know much about fine art. Remember, there were no museums in America then.
Why did Samuel Morse choose the paintings he did for his 'Gallery of the Louvre'?
Some were obvious choices -- for example the pictures of Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Leonardo, Veronese. But some are bizarre choices - Juvenet, for example. It's supposed to be some blends of centuries and cultures. So, something Venetian and Roman, and Dutch, and French, etc.
Given the public's reaction to the 'Gallery of the Louvre', what was Samuel Morse's response?
He was appalled and hurt. How could his fellow Americans be so indifferent to the charms of great art? So uninterested in self-improvement? He started wondering what kind of country is this. He previously thought it was going to be the next Athens. But in the 1830s he gave up on that idea, and for good reason.
How did the public's response to his painting impact his switch from art to the invention of the telegraph and Morse Code?
Morse had always had an interest in electricity, and it just so happened that his growing disgust with American culture coincided with some early tinkering with circuits and that led to the telegraph.
Please describe Samuel Morse's personality and how it might have impacted his decision to abandon painting in search of something else.
Morse was very religious. A conservative Protestant who thought that he was God's instrument on earth for the betterment of mankind.