Samuel Morse and The Gallery of the Louvre: Background information when reading The Greater Journey

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Greater Journey

Americans in Paris

by David McCullough

The Greater Journey by David McCullough X
The Greater Journey by David McCullough
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2011, 576 pages

    May 2012, 752 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry
Buy This Book

About this Book

Samuel Morse and The Gallery of the Louvre

This article relates to The Greater Journey

Print Review

No review can do justice to the range of McCullough's book, the number of intriguing Americans he chronicles, or the important works they produced. Notable, memorable, and especially moving are McCullough's accounts of George Catlin, painter of Native Americans, and the group of Iowans who visited Paris with him; of P.T. Barnum and Tom Thumb's triumphant visit; of Harriet Beecher Stowe's almost physical reaction to Gericault's The Raft of the Medusa in the Louvre; of Augustus Saint-Gaudens's rise from a poor apprentice to masterful creator of revolutionary sculptures; of John Singer Sargent's genius as a painter and the creation of his scandalous portrait of the alluring "Madame X".

Samuel Morse One of the most interesting figures among McCullough's gathering of geniuses is Samuel Morse, known to most Americans as the inventor of the telegraph and Morse code. McCullough covers the time in Morse's life in Paris when he strove to create "a particularly ambitious tour-de-force" - a painting he designed for Americans entitled The Gallery of the Louvre, which portrayed what Morse considered to be the important paintings in the Louvre Museum. McCullough writes:

It was to be a giant interior of the Louvre. The canvas Morse had prepared measured six by nine feet, making it greater in size than his House of Representatives of a decade earlier. And it was to be an infinitely greater test of his skill. Instead of a crowd of congressmen's faces to contend with, he had set himself to render a generous sampling of the world's greatest works of art, altogether thirty-eight paintings - landscapes, religious subjects, and portraits, including Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa - and convey in miniature the singular beauty and power of each... No American artist had yet undertaken the interior of the Louvre... No American prior to Morse... had set himself so difficult a Paris subject, a task that would require a year's work.

The Gallery of the Louvre In his painting, Morse re-imagined a gallery in the Louvre by manipulating its collection - McCullough calls it a "musee imaginaire" - installing himself, his friend James Fenimore Cooper, and Cooper's wife and daughter within the gallery. Morse also included images of female painters copying works from the walls, thus admitting women into the world of art. McCullough observes that Morse "...was a man on a mission, a kind of cultural evangelical... He would bring the good news of time-honored European art home to his own people, for the benefit and betterment of his country."

To hear David McCullough discuss Morse's painting, The Gallery of the Louvre, click on the link to the NPR interview.

Filed under Music and the Arts

Article by Jo Perry

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Greater Journey. It originally ran in August 2011 and has been updated for the May 2012 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: The Postcard
    The Postcard
    by Anne Berest
    Anne Berest's The Postcard — with an elegant translation from the French by Tina Cover &...
  • Book Jacket
    by Jennifer Saint
    Few cultures in history mastered the art of tragedy quite like the ancient Greeks. And very few ...
  • Book Jacket: Salvage This World
    Salvage This World
    by Michael Farris Smith
    In the near-future universe of Michael Farris Smith's Salvage This World, life-threatening ...
  • Book Jacket: Where Coyotes Howl
    Where Coyotes Howl
    by Sandra Dallas
    Where Coyotes Howl may appear to be a classically conventional historical novel — a wide-eyed ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The First Conspiracy
by Brad Meltzer & Josh Mensch
A remarkable and previously untold piece of American history—the secret plot to kill George Washington

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Little Italian Hotel
    by Phaedra Patrick

    Sunny, tender and brimming with charm, The Little Italian Hotel explores marriage, identity and reclaiming the present moment.

Win This Book
Win Girlfriend on Mars

30 Copies to Give Away!

A funny and poignant debut novel that skewers billionaire-funded space travel in a love story of interplanetary proportions.



Solve this clue:

Y S M Back A I'll S Y

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.