Samuel F. B. Morse as an Artist by Gregory Hilton


It was 188 years ago today that this painting by Samuel F. B. Morse was first displayed. The 1822 canvas can now be seen at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Morse is best remembered for inventing the telegraph, Morse code and daguerreotype photography.
Since 1864, the Old Hall of the U.S. House of Representatives has been known as Statuary Hall. It served as the original House chamber from 1807 to 1857. The Presidential inaugurations of James Madison, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson and Millard Fillmore all occurred in this room. Adams, “old man eloquent,” served 17 years in the House after his presidency and suffered a fatal stroke in this room on February 21, 1848. “The Art Book” (Phaidon) describes the painting by saying:
“A moment of quiet harmony reigns in the US House of Representative as members and visitors gather for an evening session. At the center of this monumental canvas is a chandelier whose light casts an abstract pattern of shadows throughout the grand Classical space of the hall, which had been recently rebuilt by architect Benjamin Latrobe following the 1814 devastation of the Capitol by the English . . . Morse ultimately quit painting in 1837, disappointed by the country’s slow cultural advancement. He devoted the rest of his life to politics and inventing.”

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