I keep having the oddest little starts and stops with this discussion. I am unsure why. I think maybe because there are several aspects to my subject and it is hard to pull them all together into a unit that makes sense to anybody but me. These random issues presented in a somewhat convoluted way are; the ubiquitous drawing and painting talked about throughout history, the captured images and the artists that made them and my iPhone. My iPhone, that amazing device, that I use to capture an image of everything that holds still and some things that don’t. My little invaluable implement that brings me images from everyone and everywhere.
When I realize I have six thousand images on my iphone from this last year alone, I am again aware that, any more, everybody takes a picture of everything and sends it off to someone, or adds it to something, or uses it to tell a story, or in some way make a point, or view a topic to a better understanding. Odd how that all works now, and how complicated and difficult it once was to capture an image and share it.
I have in the last few months read several books, the story line of which was formed in the 1700s or 1800s and even earlier, and I am once again made aware that everyone used to paint…imagine. I am reminded that before the mid 1800s if you wanted to share an image or remember an image, you had to paint it or draw it or, I suppose, carve it…imagine. Now, instead, practically everyone I know has an iPhone and they are all constantly capturing random images the easy way.
Thinking of some of the books I have recently read, the epic novels by authors such as Wilbur Smith come to mind. He reminds me, that on every great journey of exploration an artist went along to capture the images and validate the journey. A foreign and unusual thought for now, when you think about it. Yet, I wonder how was it that everyone seemed to know how to paint and draw, and in some ways everyone seemed to be expected to paint and draw not necessarily to express themselves but to capture an image. I spent some time this morning looking for the Saturday Night Live sketch of years ago when Woody Allen said something classic like, “It is the Renaissance, everybody paints.” which was hugely funny at the time, but really, when you see the art in Europe, and watch for the reference in the books you read, it does indeed seem like every one used to paint. Which brings to mind another soapbox…art in the schools…but that is for another day.
Not too long ago I finished reading The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris, David McCullough’s book about the American migration to Europe to study the arts, more specifically, Art, Literature and Medicine, an 1800s version of “study abroad”, if you will. For some reason, I was particularly interested and intrigued by Samuel Morse’s decision, in 1831, to paint The Gallery of the Louvre. His plan was to capture thirty eight, primarily Renaissance and Baroque, images from the galleries of the Louvre and reproduce them in miniature on to one painting to take home to enlighten Americans about the great art of Europe. Having not to long ago been to the Louvre, even I, considered a manic by many, am having trouble understanding why anyone would decide this undertaking to be reasonable and then spend a year doing it. Determined to become a famous painter Morse was certain this encyclopedic painting, when he displayed it in America, this reproduction of these thirty eight significant, mostly Renaissance works, would cement his future as a painter. Unfortunately, the energetic and diverse people of the new world, were less interested in the works of the old masters and a painting of the Louvre than they were in the telegraph whose invention idea Morse also brought home from his “study abroad”. Eventually, Morse was forced to give up his dream of becoming a painter and had to settle for just being a genius inventor.
Once again I can’t seem to stay on track with my thread and I am wandering off to other areas. When really the point I was wanting to make ultimately was, I would really like to see Morse’s painting, The Gallery of the Louvre. I am charmed by his idea, and impressed with his dedication and drawn to this painting through the writing of David McCullough. I am ready with my iphone to text, tweet, email, and Facebook and blog, even if forbidden, a picture of this very fascinating painting to everyone I know and many I don’t, and see what I can do to help Samuel B. Morse become known by American school children as a painter, rather than an inventor, as he had wished.
FYI: The Gallery of the Louvre is owned by The Terra Museum of American Art in Evanston, Illinois.The Louvre was purchased, in 1982 for the highest price ever paid at that time for an American painting, $3.25 million, by Daniel Terra, one of Ronald Reagan’s fund raisers and Ambassador-at-Large for Cultural Affairs. It is recognized today as a key work in the development of American Art.
Key to the Paintings shown in The Gallery of the Louvre. 1. Veronese, The Marriage at Cana 2. Murillo, The Virgin 3. Jouvenet, The Descent From the Cross and the Preparation for Burial 4. Tintoretto, Portrait of Himself 5. Poussin, The Deluge 6. Caravaggio, The Fortune Teller 7. Titian, The Crowning With Thorns 8. Van Dyck, Venus Entreating Vulcan 9. Lorrain, Cleopatra Disembarking at Tarsus 10. Murillo, The Holy Family 11. Teniers, The Knife Grinder 12. Rembrandt, Raphael Leaving Tobias 13. Poussin, Diogenes Throwing Away His Bowl 14. Titian, The Pilgrims at Emmaus 15. Huysmans, Landscape 16. Van Dyck, Portrait of a Lady and Her Daughter 17. Titian, Portrait of Francis I 18. Murillo, A Beggar Boy 19. Veronese, Christ Carrying the Cross 20. Correggio, Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine of Alexandria 21. Rubens, The Flight of Lot and His Family From Sodom, Conducted by Angels 22. Lorrain, A Seaport at Sunset 23. Titian, The Entombment 24. Da Vinci, The Portrait of Mona Lisa 25. Le Sueur, Jesus Bearing the Cross 26. Rosa, Landscape 27. Raphael, La Belle Jardiniére 28. Van Dyck, Portrait of a Man in Black 29. Guido, The Union of Design and Color 30. Rubens, Suzanne Fourment 31. Guido, The Repose of the Holy Family 32. Rembrandt, Head of an Old Man 33. Van Dyck, The Adulterous Woman Taken Before Our Savior 34. Vernet, A Marine View by Moonlight 35. Guido, Dejanira and the Centaur Nessus 36. Rubens, Thomysris, Queen of Nassagetae 37. Mignard, Virgin Mary and Child 38. Watteau, Embarkation From the Island of Cythera.
An undertaking beyond imagining.