Samuel F.B. Morse (Library of American Art)

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9780810915312: Samuel F.B. Morse (Library of American Art)
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Book by Kloss, William

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The inventor of the electric telegraph was also a portrait painter, "the finest of his generation" in Kloss's judgment. Morse went to England to paint in 1811; he returned to America four years later, converted to the academic "grand style" that was already in decline. That he continually broke through the artifice of that style in works of startling power is attested to by the color reproductions in this handsome biographical study. Morse could be softly romantic as in his portrait of poet-journalist William Cullen Bryant; yet the pictures that speak to us most directly are unsparingly realistic: witness his 81-year-old John Adams seething with bitterness and physical decline, his full-length study of the gruff Marquis de Lafayette, his pugnacious Governor De Witt Clinton. Morse held Calvinistic, pro-slavery and anti-Catholic views; once he became famous as an inventor, he turned his back on America to settle in France. These circumstances, suggests Kloss, National Geographic Society art consultant, help explain why he is not as well-known an artist as he ought to be.
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