Today's Hours
Museum: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Today's Hours
Museum: 1:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Gardens: 7:00 AM - 5:30 PM
Moran, Thomas
(1837-1926)
Collection: American Collection
Specialties: Paintings, Prints
View Artwork
Thomas Moran was one of a group of nineteenth century landscape artists
who belonged to the second phase of the Hudson River School. Born in
Bolton, England in 1837, he came to the United States as a child in 1844
when he, his mother, and his six siblings joined his father in
Philadelphia. The artistic movement in which he eventually became a
significant figure had evolved in response to the beauty of the American
wilderness as the artists sought to depict God's presence within an
untouched natural landscape. Those landscapes became the compelling
central image of the early republic, significant artistically,
politically, and socially as an emerging middle class with the disposable
wealth that allowed the purchase of art was created through America's
increasing industrialization. Ironically, both Thomas Cole, the founder of
the Hudson River School, and Moran came from families who had been forced
to flee Lancashire, England because the same Industrial Revolution that
would allow their sons to flourish as artists had destroyed their family
businesses. In a further irony, the transition of America from an
agrarian, pastoral culture to a mechanized, urbanized society would ruin
the very views celebrated in the artworks purchased by the factory owners.
America fell in love with its landscape while in the process of destroying
it.

Moran first became interested in an artistic career through his elder
brother Edward who became a marine painter. Thomas began his
apprenticeship in art working for an engraving firm, but later moved into
his brother's circle of artists where he received significant training as
a painter. In 1863, after returning from a trip to England for study and
practice, he married fellow artist Mary Nimmo who became especially well
known for her etchings. In 1871 he and Mary made the first of a number of
trips to the American West where, among others, he painted the grand-scale
"Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone", which achieved national acclaim. During
a congressional debate, the watercolor sketches Moran had made in
preparation for that monumental work were used to convince Congress to
pass a bill making Yellowstone the first national park. Not only did
President Grant sign the bill into law in 1872, but the U.S. government
was so impressed with Moran's work that it paid the whopping sum of
$10,000 for the original painting and hung it in the Capitol building. In
1874, it also purchased Moran's "The Chasm of the Colorado" and hung it
there as well.

Moran continued to make periodic trips to the West and to Europe while his
reputation flourished. However, by the end of the nineteenth century,
critical appreciation of his work declined along with that of the other
Hudson River School painters. Nonetheless, chromolithographic
reproductions of his earlier paintings continued to be purchased by the
public, allowing him to maintain a comfortable lifestyle until his death
at his winter residence in Santa Barbara, California in 1926. Today,
Moran's art is enjoying a popular renaissance, fetching high prices at art
auctions and gracing the walls of major museums and galleries around the
country, including the R.W. Norton Art Gallery.

Everl Adair, Director of Research and Rare Collections