In his efforts to elevate American culture, Morse is credited with a major development in the burgeoning New York art scene. “There are certain expectations held by him and others that this new country, liberated from Britain, is now going to flourish. It’s going to become the next Athens,” Saiti explained. “Except by the time he quits painting in the 1830s, it’s pretty clear to him and others that it isn’t going to be Athens. So he’s asking himself, what can he do to help push this cause ahead to make America culturally great?”
As Morse looked around, he realized all of the American art academies of the time were run by elites. In response, he and a group of artists founded the National Academy of Design in New York, which for many years was one of the only places in the city where artists could display their work publicly. Staiti, reflecting on its influence, asked: “Would the Hudson River School have existed without Morse’s National Academy? I don’t know. The two things went hand in hand.”
Whatever Morse’s contribution to the greater arc of American art history, in 1837 he gave up on his personal practice in a fit of despair. Not only had Gallery of the Louvre been a flop, but he hadn’t received a commission for the series of paintings in the capitol’s rotunda.