NEW ALBANY —
Yet, unlike his children, back when a young Morrison arrived in New Albany, no family support existed for him. Undeterred from his aspiration, he opened a studio and began to promote his business.
“He announced his arrival with a small advertisement in the New Albany Gazette and invited the public to examine specimens of his work at his studio on Main Street near Bank,” said a transcript from a 1970’s radio program about Morrison from The Historical Society and posted on the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library’s website. “The public liked what they saw, for commissions began coming in and many of the portraits he painted are still prize possessions of New Albany families.”
For more than 50 years, the city’s most famous artist did what he did best — he painted. Many prominent citizens of the age had their portraits done by Morrison. Owning the paintings back then represented more than just a fine appreciation for the arts. Possessing a framed piece meant you also had the affluence to afford to commission one. Even now, the paintings allow today’s viewers an insight into what well-off Victorians found important.
“Morrison had a knack of instilling his subjects with appearances of tranquility, making the finished product of each portrait appear inviting to viewers,” said David Condra in a transcription of a 2012 talk he gave entitled “George Morrison: New Albany’s 19th Century Portrait and Landscape Artist.” “The face is the focal point of each portrait, with hair and clothing commanding attention as well. Hair, clothing, jewelry painted in a subject’s portrait created a visual biography of that person, such as socio-economic status and cultural values.”
Perhaps his most famous painting was that of New Albany resident and Indiana’s 11th governor, Ashabel P. Willard, which still hangs in the Statehouse. To better understand Morrison’s style without traveling to Indianapolis, check out the NAFC Library. His works dot the hallways near the Indiana room. Four pieces damaged by vandals also remain in storage.