Thursday, 26 July 2012

Thomas Moran - part 1

Thomas Moran (1837 – 1926) originally from Bolton, England was an American painter and printmaker of the Hudson River School in New York whose work often featured the Rocky Mountains. Moran and his family took residence in New York where he obtained work as an artist. A talented illustrator and colourist, Moran was hired as an illustrator at Scribner's Monthly. During the late 1860s, he was appointed the chief illustrator of the magazine, a position that helped him launch his career as one of the premier painters of the American landscape.

Moran along with Albert Bierstadt, Thomas Hill, and William Keith are sometimes referred to as belonging to the Rocky Mountain School of landscape painters because of all of the Western landscapes made by this group.

Thomas Moran was born in 1837 in Bolton, Lancashire to two handloom weavers. The rapid industrialization of nineteenth century England soon mechanized the weaving process and forced Thomas Moran’s parents out of their jobs, at which point the whole family was moved to Kensington, Philadelphia, just outside of Philadelphia.

At the age of sixteen, Moran became an apprentice to a Philadelphia wood engraving firm, Scattergood & Telfer. It was in this position that he began to paint and draw seriously, working diligently on his skills as both a watercolourist and an illustrator. In this he had help and support from his brother Edward, who was an associate of the marine painter James Hamilton.

In the early 1860s Moran travelled to Lake Superior, where he painted and sketched the landscape of the Great Lakes. Back in Philadelphia he sold lithographs of the Great Lakes before setting off on another trip, this time to London, to see the works of the famed British landscape and marine painter J. M. W. Turner. Thomas Moran replications of his own work so impressed the director of the National Gallery that he was given a private room to work in. Upon returning to the U.S., Moran wanted to go west again and paint but had to wait for the right opportunity.

That opportunity came in the form of Ferdinand V. Hayden’s 1871 Geological Survey Expedition to what is now Yellowstone National Park. Thomas Moran was hired, along with photographer William Henry Jackson, to document the landscape of the region. He could not have chosen a better trip or companion, as the combined talents of Moran and Jackson in documenting the geysers, hot springs, canyons and cliffs of the “Yellow Stone Territory” would be instrumental in persuading Congress to set the land aside as a National Park. It was also the beginning of a fruitful partnership, as Thomas Moran would accompany Jackson again on Major John Wesley Powell’s expedition to the west in 1873.

Moran (centre) on the Powell Expedition

It was as a result of these trips that Thomas Moran painted his two most famous works, “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone” and “The Chasm of the Colorado,” both of which were purchased (for a previously unheard-of sum of $10,000 each) by Congress to be displayed in the Capitol in Washington. With the money he was earning from his newfound fame, Thomas Moran again travelled to Europe, this time to Venice, where he purchased a gondola and shipped it back to the United States in order to use it as a model for a variety of Venice scenes he produced after 1890.


1872 The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone 
oil on canvas 213.4 x 365.8 cm

1873-74 The Chasm of the Colorado 
oil on canvas 214.3 x 367.6 cm
Thomas Moran moved west permanently in his old age, settling in Santa Barbara, CA and travelling to Acoma and Laguna pueblos to paint the scenery and lifestyle of the native peoples. He died in 1926.

This is part 1 of a 5-part post on the works on the works of Thomas Moran. Works will appear chronologically, but a number of undated works will be in part 5.


1856 Summer Landscape with Cows 
oil on cardboard 52.1 x 76.8 cm

1858 Haunted House 
oil on canvas 86.4 x 71.1 cm

1859 Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came 
oil on canvas 74.3 x 111.8 cm

1860 Dusk Wings 
oil on canvas 50.8 x 76.2 cm

1860 Salvator Rosa Sketching the Banditi 
oil on canvas 101 x 170 cm

c1860 View of Fairmont Waterworks, Philadelphia 
oil on canvas 101.6 x 132.1 cm

1862 Golden Bough (after Joseph Mallor William Turner - see below) 
oil on canvas 74.9 x 113 cm

The Golden Bough by J. M. W. Turner depicting an episode from the Aeneid by Virgil

1862 On the Catawissa Creek 
oil on canvas 35.6 x 51.5 cm

1864 Autumn on the Wissahickon 
oil on canvas 77.5 x 114.3 cm

1864 Cresheim Glen, Wissahickon, Autumn 
oil on canvas 41 x 51.3 cm

1864 Cresheim Glen, Wissahickon, Autumn 
oil on canvas 74 x 92.4 cm

1864 The Juniata, Evening 
oil on canvas 50.8 x 76.2 cm

1864 The Wilds of Lake Superior 
oil on canvas 76.2 x 114.3 cm

1865 The Autumnal Woods ( aka Under the Trees ) 
oil on canvas 101.6 x 87 cm

1867 Children of the Mountain 
oil on canvas 157.8 x 132.4 cm

1867 The Evening Hunter 
oil on canvas 50.8 x 76.2 cm

1867 Winter in the Rockies 
oil on canvas 91.8 x 81 cm

c1867-68c Amalfi Coast 
oil on canvas 91.4 x 104.1 cm

c1867 Autumn Landscape 
oil on canvas 51.4 x 76.2 cm

c1867 Shepherdess Watching Her Flock 
oil on canvas 101.6 x 167.6 cm

1868 The Sacrifice of Isaac 
oil on canvas 76.2 x 63.5 cm

1870 Forest Scene oil on canvas 50.8 x 40.6 cm

1870 On the Wissahickon near Chestnut Hill 
oil on canvas 50.8 x 41.3 cm

1871 Canyon Walls, Yellowstone ( sketch )

1871 Cinnabar Mountain, Yellowstone River 
watercolour 26.2 x 35.9 cm

1871 Crystal Falls 
watercolour 

1871 East Wall of the Canyon from Inspiration Point

1871 First Sketch Made in the West at Green River, Wyoming
 watercolour 8.9 x 19.7 cm

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