The Gallery of the Louvre by Samuel Morse is not, at first glance, the most obvious painting with which to start an account of the effects of real-time technologies on art. It shows a group of mostly young people admiring and in one or two cases copying the masterpieces of European art in the Salon Carré of the Louvre and thus appears to be a conventional example of an academic genre, that of the Kunstkammer, devoted to showing collections of art in grand rooms. Nor does it evince any of the radical experimentation with painting techniques that would characterize the work of Morses near contemporaries such as Turner and Constable or, later in the century, that of the Impressionists and Postimpressionists. Yet, in a roundabout way, it has a good claim to being an important artefact for the history of modern art, not in terms of any influence it might have had on future artistic developments, but on the effects its commercial failure had on Morse's career.
Samuel Finlay Breeze Morse was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, in 1791. He was the son of Jedidiah Morse, a distinguished geographer and Congregational clergyman. To begin with at least, there was little sign of Morse following his father in terms of zeal or success. He was sent to be educated first at Phillips Academy, Andover, where he was an eccentric pupil, and then to Yale where he was an indifferent student (Silverman, 2003: 6–12). His interest was most aroused by science and technology, in particular through lectures he attended on the subject of electricity, and by the painting of miniature portraits, which he practiced much to his parents' horror (ibid.: 13–14). But when, after graduating, painting continued to be his main interest, they helped him travel to England in 1811 to study at the Royal Academy of Arts (Staiti, 1989: 13–22). It was there that he