"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Samuel F. B. Morse

This 1812 self-portrait of Samuel Finley Breese Morse (27 Apr 1791 - 2 Apr 1872) hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
"Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph, was first an artist who helped found the National Academy of Design (1826) in order to elevate and support the arts. But around 1832 he be'came fascinated with the idea of sending messages via electric wire. With no sci'entific or mechanical training, Morse devised an elegant machine that sent coded mes­sages by opening and closing an electrical circuit. Although the government 'neglected the telegraph, ,private businesses seized on the new invention as a gre,at leap forward in communications technology. At a time when railways and water transportation were binding the country together, Morse did the same with a network of instantaneous communication. Speed has always characterized America, and Morse's breakthrough was the gigantic first step in creating ever-faster means of communicating." -- National Portrait Gallery
The Portrait Gallery also provides this discussion of Morse and his self-portrait.
"Samuel F. B. Morse's first career was as an artist. After graduating from Yale in 1810, he went to England to study painting with Washington Allston and Benjamin West. This self-portrait was probably completed soon after his arrival. On his return to the United States in 1815, Morse became a portrait painter and was a founder of the National Academy of Design in New York. By the early 1830s, Morse turned from art to conducting a series of electrical experiments, which culminated in 1838 with a model for the modern telegraph. By 1844, he was seated in the United States Capitol tapping out the first long-distance telegraph message in a code that still bears his name." --  NPG
The portrait of 63 year old Samuel Morse is part of Christian Schussele's Men of Progress, 1862 also in the National Portrait Gallery.

See: Amy Henderson's discussion of Samuel F. B. Morse and this painting, recorded at NPG, November 15, 2012.

The Portrait Gallery also displays this model of Morse's automatic telegraph, 1837 like the one being demonstrated in Schussele's painting.

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