April 27, On This Day
American inventor and painter Samuel Morse, born April 27, 1791, is best known for contributing to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs, and being the co-developer of the Morse code that helped develop commercial use of telegraphy.
But Morse was also a portrait painter, and had studied at the Royal Academy in London, where he was moved by the art of the Renaissance, and paid close attention to the works of Michelangelo and Raphael.
The artist chose to paint the House of Representatives, in a similar way, with careful attention to architecture and dramatic lighting. He also wished to select a uniquely American topic that would bring glory to the young nation. His subject did just that, showing American democracy in action. As a project, he painted miniature copies of 38 of the Louvre’s famous paintings on a single canvas (6 ft. x 9 ft), which he entitled The Gallery of the Louvre.
On a subsequent visit to Paris in 1839, Morse met Louis Daguerre. He became interested in the latter’s daguerreotype — the first practical means of photography. Mathew Brady, one of the earliest photographers in American history, famous for his depictions of the Civil War, initially studied under Morse and later took photographs of him.
While returning by ship from Europe in 1832, he became interested in developing the Morse telegraph. The rest, as they say, is history.