April 27, 2017
Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872), Portrait of a Woman, c.1840, oil on canvas, 84 x 48 1/8 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of Michael B. Boleman and Michael A. Murphy, 1973.
Samuel Morse was born on this day in 1791. Morse is most famous for his invention of the telegraph and of developing Morse code. Before Morse was an inventor, he was a very successful painter. While attending Yale, Morse supported himself by painting. Following graduation, he traveled to England to further his artistic career. He was accepted into the Royal Academy in 1811, producing work that was influenced by the Renaissance.
Morse returned to the United States in 1815, and experienced great success as an artist, particularly in portraiture. He received many commissions from wealthy patrons and founded the National Academy of Design in New York City. Morse received commissions to paint President James Monroe in 1820 and the Marquis de Lafayette in 1826.
It was during his painting of the Marquis de Lafayette that he learned that his wife had very suddenly died. He lamented that he had not been able to receive the news sooner of her sudden sickness and death. It was then that Morse began experimenting with different methods of long distance communication. In 1832, Morse submitted his patent for the single-wire telegraph.