This symposium will explore the cultural and educational ambitions behind Samuel Morse’s monumental gallery painting of the Musée du Louvre. In partnership with Wake Forest University’s engaged humanities initiative, highlights from the afternoon will be shared on social media using the hashtag #RHMorse.
“The Dream of American Civilization”
Dr. 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”
Dr. 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”
Dr. John J. Curley, associate professor of modern and contemporary art and Rubin Faculty Fellow 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.
We are grateful to the Terra Foundation for American Art for their generous support of this event.