SAN MARINO, Calif. (AP) — "Gallery of the Louvre," the artistic masterpiece Samuel F.B. Morse painted in the years before he developed the telegraph, comes to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens later this month in its first stop on a nine-city U.S. tour.
The oil-on-canvas work, measuring 6 feet by 9 feet, imagines dozens of the world's great artworks assembled in a gallery at the Louvre in Paris. It includes reproductions of works by Rembrandt, Rubens and others being viewed by several spectators.
Although best known as the developer of Morse code and the telegraph, Morse's early career was as a painter. He created "Gallery of the Louvre" in Paris and New York between 1831 and 1833 when he was in his early 40s.
His 7-foot-by-10-foot "House of Representatives," painted in 1822, hangs in the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.
After studying science, art and other subjects at Yale, Morse supported himself for a time as a portrait artist. His ambition, he once wrote to his parents, was "to rival the genius of a Raphael, a Michelangelo or a Titian."
Although "Gallery of the Louvre" drew positive reviews from critics when it was unveiled, the public response was tepid, and Morse abandoned art for science and technology. He sent his first telegraph message — "what hath God wrought" — in 1844.
"Gallery of the Louvre" will be displayed at The Huntington from Jan. 24 through May 4 before moving on to Fort Worth, Texas, Seattle and other cities during a three-year tour.
It is on loan from Chicago's Terra Foundation for American Art, which oversaw a six-month restoration of the work in 2010.
The restoration was documented in a video, six minutes of which will be shown during the Huntington exhibition and online at Huntington.org.