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

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Greater Journey

Americans in Paris

by David McCullough

The Greater Journey by David McCullough
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2011, 576 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2012, 752 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Samuel Morse and The Gallery of the Louvre

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.

Article by Jo Perry

This article was originally published in August 2011, and has been updated for the May 2012 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • 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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    The Hermit
    by Thomas Rydahl
    If you can be comfortable with Scandinavian noir played out against the sun-drenched backdrop of ...
  • Book Jacket: The Radium Girls
    The Radium Girls
    by Kate Moore
    In 1915, Austrian-born Sabin von Sochocky developed a luminescent paint that used radium to create a...
  • Book Jacket: Long Black Veil
    Long Black Veil
    by Jennifer Finney Boylan
    "This was a long time ago, before my first death, and none of us now are the people we were then. ...

Win this book!
Win News of the World

News of the World

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Weight of Ink
    by Rachel Kadish

    An intellectual, suspenseful, and entertaining page-turner.
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T's S I Numbers

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.