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Samuel Morse’s “Gallery of the Louvre,” at Amon Carter Museum.

Samuel F.B. Morse is known as the inventor of the telegraph and Morse code, but before he turned his attention to science, he was a renowned portrait painter. It’s this aspect of his career that demands attention when the Amon Carter Museum of American Art unveils Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre, a work that he painted in the early 1830s. Inspired by a trip Morse took to Paris, the painting contains 38 reproductions of works of art in the Louvre, depicted hanging in the museum’s Salon Carré.

The work served a valuable purpose, making paintings like da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” and Claude Lorrain’s “Sunset at the Harbor” available to 19th-century Americans who would never get the chance to travel to Europe. Though Morse’s painting involved some imaginative redecorating (the actual hall was showing contemporary French works instead of old masters when he was there), his work nevertheless shows how the Louvre presented itself at the time. The clusters of paintings on the walls were typical of how museums showed their art, and Morse puckishly placed his own friends (including novelist James Fenimore Cooper) in the hall. The painting calls the Carter home for the summer.

 

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Gallery of the Louvre is on display Sat thru Aug 23 at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, 3501 Camp Bowie Blvd, FW. Admission is free. Call 817-738-1933.

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