Cover image for Samuel F.B. Morse
Samuel F.B. Morse
Staiti, Paul J.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Physical Description:
xxii, 298 pages, 16 pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N6537.M66 A4 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Oversize

On Order



This is the definitive study of one of America's major artists and inventors, Samuel F.B. Morse (1791-1872). It covers his prodigious achievements in painting and technology, his passionate cultural ambitions, and his key role in the historic development of American art. The book imaginatively combines intellectual biography with interpretation of more than one hundred pictures. Three chapters consider Morse's most extraordinary artistic achievements: The House of Representatives, The Gallery of the Louvre, and The National Academy of Design. In a final chapter on the electromagnetic telegraph, an invention that imprinted his name on our language, there is a special discussion of the conceptual relationship between artistic and mechanical inventions.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This scholarly volume serves as the first full-scale study of Samuel F.B. Morse, artist, inventor, and early promoter of the National Academy of Design. Morse hoped to inspire the American public with such history paintings as ``The House of Representatives'' and ``The Gallery of the Louvre'' but had to support himself through portraiture and finally abandoned painting as a profession in 1837. His genius lay in combining existing elements in new ways, an approach he applied to both art and mechanics, and he is remembered largely for his experiments with the electromagnetic telegraph. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this book is Staiti's discussion of Morse's elitist, xenophobic, and volatile personality. Appendixes include a checklist of the artist's works. Appropriate for specialized art history collections.-- Kathleen Eagen Johnson, Historic Hudson Valley, Tarrytown, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Publications on Morse the painter and inventor of the telegraph have increased in recent years. There have been exhibitions with elaborate catalogs at the National Academy of Design and the Grey Art Gallery and Study Center of NYU (both in 1962). In 1983 Nicolai Cikovsky edited Morse's Lectures on the Affinity of Painting with Other Fine Arts, and there have been numerous articles--particularly by Paul Staiti (Mount Holyoke College), the leading authority on Morse. Staiti has now produced a first-rate wide-ranging study that focuses on Morse's artistic career. Although he is indebted to Carleton Mabee's general biography of 1943 (The American Leonardo) and to Oliver Larkin's imaginative but briefer one of 1954 (Samuel F.B. Morse and American Democratic Art), Staiti is far more perceptive and complete in his discussion. His book is also superior in almost every way to William Kloss's recent Samuel F.B. Morse (CH, Mar'89). Both books have a great wealth of illustrations (color and black and white) and both are up to date in terms of research, but Staiti, the Morse scholar, approaches the artist from a wider perspective, devoting considerable time to Morse's US and European contemporaries. By far the best single book on Morse as an artist and 19th-century figure. Highly recommended to the general public and to students at all levels. -T. J. McCormick, Wheaton College (MA)

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
1 Education
2 Itinerancy
3 House of Representatives
4 New York
5 National Academy of Design
6 Gallery of the Louvre
7 Electromagnetism
8 Epilogue Notes
Appendix I Key to Morse's Picture of the House of Representives
Appendix II Descriptive catalogue of the pictures, thirty- seven in number, from the most celebrated masters, copies into the Gallery of the Louvre
Checklist of paintings and sculpture
Selected bibliography Index