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Alexander Calder

Morse, Samuel F. B.
Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
oil on canvas
Framed: HOA 36″; WOA 29-3/4″
Canvas: HOA 29-3/4″; WOA 23-5/16″
Accession Number:
Oil on canvas portrait of a man wearing a dark coat with full white cravat and crisp collar; he has a ruddy complexion with rosy cheeks, nose and chin. His lips are not well defined but he has a dimpled chin, heavy-lidded brown eyes, and short dark hair. His hair flips upward in the front with slight wisps around the ears. He sits at a slight angle to the right. The background is accented with a red swatch of drapery behind the sitter on the proper left side. The right side features a deep horizon landscape of dark blue above and dark brown below the horizon. The sky with its dark blue is accented with hints of rose, especially in the upper right hand corner proper.

SITTER: Morse was introduced to Alexander Calder (1771-1849) the well established cabinetmaker and builder. Calder was born in Scotland and eventually moved to Charlestown by 1796. Not only was he famous for his fine cabinetry and furniture making, he was also a shipbuilder and business owner. Morse’s portrait speaks to Calder’s powerful name and status that he had spread throughout the South.

“In Morse’s fine portrait, Calder is a confident, upright, unaffected Scotsman. His ruddy-skinned, heavy-lidded face shines out atop a powerful torso clad in a dark green jacket and crisp white stock and collar. The rather arbitrary bold red swatch of drapery at the right makes an effective counterpoint to the dark jacket, while the aquamarine sky touched with rose lends a quiet note of approaching evening. ” (William Kloss, Samuel F. B. Morse, 1988, p.62)

The frame is gold leaf over plaster over wood. Having foliage and shell decoration with beveled detailing. There is cracking in the plaster and areas of loss throughout.

The painting was re-framed at some point. We are not sure if the painting was originally in this frame and just stabilized at a later point or it existed outside of this frame.

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund