Queen Victoria: English Inspiration From Across the Pond and Susan Walker Morse: Clio in the Communication Age
Carrie Rebora Barratt, Metropolitan Museum of Art
A Saturday two-part illustrated lecture, part 2 of 2.
Queen Victoria, 1838 by Thomas Sully, oil on canvas. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, bequest of T. Sully Darley, 1914.
Samuel F. B. Morse (American 1791–1872). Susan Walker Morse (The Muse), ca. 1836–37. Oil on canvas, 73 3/4 x 57 5/8 in. (187.3 x 146.4 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Bequest of Herbert L. Pratt, 1945 (45.62.1)
By the late 1820s, portraiture had emerged from strictly private commissions to a commercial profession with opportunities for grand public displays. The establishment of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia and the National Academy of Design in New York gave artists venues for display, critique, and business, even while the traditional practices of conveying character, personality, beauty, and more remained.
When Thomas Sully received a commission to paint the young Queen Victoria for a Philadelphia boardroom in 1838, he jumped on the next boat with his daughter as his companion for the journey. His ingenious and unorthodox rendition of a state portrait features the 18-year-old queen’s literal and physical ascendance in a stair-climbing pose that emphasizes her femininity and strength.
At about the same time, Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the eponymous code, posed his beautiful daughter, Susan Walker, as an allegory of the creative process and the frustrations of art. Posed on the balcony of an Italian villa in a satin dress gazing to the heavens while holding a pencil poised over a blank sketchbook, she personifies the lavishness and futility of art. This was a personal sentiment for Morse. His interest in the new medium of photography revealed to him that the world would soon change for portrait painters worldwide.
Perhaps our only speaker to appear on a segment of The Colbert Report, Carrie Rebora Barratt is Curator Emeritus of American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Deputy Director for Collections and Administration. She led the team that renovated the galleries for American Paintings and Sculpture and has lectured and published extensively. Her most recent Forum lecture was “Gilbert Stuart: At Home and Abroad” in December 2004.
A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Barratt received her M.A. from the University of California at Los Angeles in and her Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.