About this Artwork
Humboldt and Morse met in Paris in 1831, while the artist was hard at work painting the studies for this massive painting. “Sometimes the great explorer would seat himself beside Morse as he painted at the Louvre, and discourse with the utmost charm from his vast store of observation and thought.” Other times, Humboldt would walk the hallways of the museum and the subject would turn to Morse’s idea for a telegraph. Both men were deeply interested in interconnected networks of knowledge. Morse intended this painting to be its own network of information, a compression of a history of European painting designed to inspire the arts in the United States. Like Humboldt’s book, Cosmos, and Church’s painting, Heart of the Andes, Morse’s painting aspires to serve as a compendium of cultural knowledge.