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 Thomas Moran  (1837 - 1926)

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Lived/Active: Pennsylvania/California      Known for: landscape and marine painting, topography

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Regarded as the primary artist of the final decades of Western exploration, Thomas Moran made eight trips West between 1871 and 1892 and created a body of oil and watercolor sketches that remain a primary record of that period.  In fact, his painting was so associated with the West that he was referred to as T. Yellowstone Moran.  In 1873, he began signing his name with a monogram that incorporated "Y" into his initials, and from 1911, he added a thumbprint.

He was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, and his father was a hand-loom weaver.  In 1844, his family emigrated to Philadelphia where in 1853, he apprenticed to a wood engraving firm and sketched designs on blocks.  He also studied with his older brother, Edward, a marine and historical painter, whose studio he shared.

In 1860, he made his first trip heading west, going to Lake Superior.  Shortly after, he and Edward went to England where both brothers were heavily influenced by copying paintings of landscapist J.M.W. Turner.  In 1866 and 1867, he returned to Europe and studied the tonalist painting style of Corot and did studies of Venice.

In 1871 at age 34, he began the subject matter that challenged him for the remainder of his life. He traveled West with geologist F.V. Hayden on the Hayden Survey to the Grand Canyon and the Yellowstone River. Returning he moved his studio to Newark, New Jersey, and began doing huge panoramic paintings from his sketches.

In 1872, he sketched in Yosemite and other parts of California, and in 1873, explored the Grand Canyon with Major Powell's survey team.  The United States Congress bought two paintings from these trips for $10,000 each.  From 1881 to 1911, he traveled nearly every year, often in the West, and also painted in Florida and Europe.

In 1916, he settled in Santa Barbara, California where he died in 1926, having spent the later part of his life painting from sketches he made from earlier travels.  His popularity never declined, and he was an active artist well into his 80s.  By the time of his death, many of his favorite painting areas were protected in national park land.

Although he is credited as a great documentary painter, he did not intend his paintings to be literal records of what he saw.  He was committed to mysticism, a personal spiritual vision that caused him to find inspiration in nature.  He said: "All my tendencies are toward idealization. A place as a place has no value in itself for the artist" (Samuels 333).  On his deathbed, at age 90, he envisioned on his ceiling future landscapes to paint and expressed ongoing disapproval of modernist, abstract art.


Sources include:
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Peggy and Harold Samuels, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Artists of the American West


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Thomas Moran was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England in 1837, one of a family of seven children.  Bolton was a grimy textile center and his parents were both handloom weavers.  He came to the United States when he was seven years old.  Though he received no formal art training, he was an apprentice to a wood engraver in Philadelphia during his teens.  From his experience, he learned the skillful manipulation of texture and value that became so evident in his work.

Moran became a western artist after working as an illustrator for magazines including Harper's and Scribner's.  At the age of thirty-four he was invited to accompany Ferdinand V. Hayden's 1871 Geological Survey Expedition to the Yellowstone Territory.  Moran's paintings of Yellowstone's geysers, hot springs canyons and cliffs, combined with remarkable photographs taken by pioneer photographer William Henry Jackson, played a major role in convincing Congress to make the region a national park in 1872.

After the Yellowstone trip, Moran's career as an expedition artist and painter blossomed. He continued to travel with subsequent Hayden surveys and painted Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon as well as other wilderness regions for the next forty years.

In 1863, Moran married Mary Nimmo, a Scottish immigrant, and together they went to Europe where he studied the work of J.M.W.Turner and came under the influence of the old masters.  Later they settled in Newark, New Jersey and had three children.  Mary died in 1899 and their daughter Ruth became his companion, accompanying him on his travels to Europe and the West.

Later in his career Moran visited New Mexico and became interested in painting the Indians and their surroundings.  But his most lasting fame will probably rest on his vivid and dramatic scenes of Western America's many national parks and monuments.  He continued to paint well into an advanced age and died in Santa Barbara, California in 1926 at the age of eighty-nine.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
Smithsonian Magazine (date unknown)

Biography from Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery Santa FeTucson:
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, Thomas 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 watercolorist 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, Thomas Moran traveled 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 JMW Turner. Thomas Moran replications of Thomas Moran's 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.

It was on this trip 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 traveled 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.

Thomas Moran moved west permanently in his old age, settling in Santa Barbara, CA and traveling to Acoma and Laguna pueblos to paint the scenery and lifestyle of the native peoples. He died in 1926 of natural causes.

Biography from Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden:
Thomas Moran was born into an important family of artists that included his brothers, Peter and Edward, and his nephew Edward Percy. In 1844, he moved from Bolton, Lancashire, England, to the United States, where he and his relatives forged successful careers as painters. As a boy in Philadelphia, Moran was apprenticed to a wood engraving firm, and by his early twenties had begun to work in watercolor and oil.

His instructor, James Hamilton, known as the “American Turner”, introduced Moran to the work of the English master through engraved reproductions. These had a tremendous impact on the Moran’s work, as is evident in this painting. In 1861, the young artist traveled briefly to London to study Turner’s paintings in the National Gallery of Art. He and his wife, the etcher Mary Nimmo Moran, made another trip to Europe in 1866-67, where they traveled to Rome, Naples, Florence, Bologna, and Milan.

Moran did not return to Italy until 1886, at which time, inspired by the atmospheric Venetian paintings of J. M. W. Turner, he visited Venice for the first time. Upon his arrival there, he wrote to his wife that, “Venice is all, and more, than travelers have reported of it. It is wonderful. I shall make no attempt at description but will tell you when I get back.”1 He later spoke of the city as an “inexhaustible mine of treasures for the artist.” One of the artist’s favorite views of Venice was of the Bacino San Marco, looking west toward the entrance to the Grand Canal.

In the summer of 1890, the artist made another sketching trip to Venice, gathering material for years of work to come. From his notebooks during these two trips, he painted many more pictures of Venice than he did of any other subject matter, including the Rocky Mountains.2 His Venetian scenes are characterized by a light palette of blue, green, and pink, which depict the shifting surfaces of sky and water. His uses of atmosphere effects are reminiscent of Turner’s work and were tremendously popular with the American public. In 1898, one of the artist’s Venetian sunsets was reproduced in calendar of which twenty-two million copies were printed. Moran continued to paint Venetian subjects for the rest of his career, and due to their popularity among collectors, he exhibited and sold them well into the twentieth century.

_____________________________________________________________________________
1 Amy O. Basford, ed., Home Thoughts from Afar: Letters of Thomas Moran to Mary Nimmo
Moran (1967), p.77.
2 Moran was so inspired by the romance of Venice tat during his trip, he bought a gondola and
had it seat to his home in East Hampton.

Biography from Nedra Matteucci Galleries:
THOMAS MORAN (1837-1926)

Thomas Moran was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England.  About 1840 the Moran family immigrated to America.  They settled in Philadelphia where the children received an education rich in art.  At the age of sixteen, Moran became apprenticed to a wood engraving firm.

Moran and his brother Edward (a marine painter of considerable accomplishment) were introduced to the works of outstanding U.S. and European artists by James Hamilton to whom the young men took their pictures for criticism.  Moran particularly admired the work of J.M.W. Turner.  After studying illustrations of Turner's work, Moran resolved to see his original paintings, in color.   In 1861 he traveled abroad to London to study firsthand the paintings of Turner and Claude Lorrain.  To learn Turner's technical processes, he carefully copied two or three of his oils and a larger number of his watercolors.  When the directors of the National Gallery saw the exquisite work he was doing, he was given a room in the gallery where he could work undisturbed.

In 1871 Moran accompanied the exploring expedition to the Yellowstone country and in 1873 went upon a similar expedition under Major John Wesley Powell, making sketches for his two great works, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and The Chasm of the Colorado, which were purchased by Congress for ten thousand dollars each and are now both hanging in the Capitol in Washington.

Though renowned for his Western landscapes, Moran did not forsake the European scene.  He visited Venice in 1886 and again in 1890.  He produced several paintings of the city that were shown at the National Academy of Design in the following years.  The Venice canal was a favorite subject of Moran's and a recurring theme in his painting.

When he returned from his second trip to Venice, Moran brought a large gondola back to his East Hampton home.  This gondola served as a model for many of his Venetian paintings.  After his death in 1926, it was donated to the Mariners' Museum at Newport News, Virginia.

A painter, illustrator, and a man of great character, Thomas Moran is remembered as one of the foremost U.S. painters.

Biography from The Coeur d'Alene Art Auction:
Thomas Moran, NA(1837-1926) was born in Bolton, England, and came to the United States when he was seven years old.  He was one of seven children, and three of his brothers, Edward, John and Peter, also became famous artists.

Largely self-taught, Moran worked in his youth for a wood engraver in Philadelphia, then shared a studio with his brother Edward.  He experimented with pencil, charcoal, ink, wash drawings, wood engraving, watercolor and oil.  He went to Europe with his wife, Mary Nimmo, and studied the work of J.M.W. Turner and came under the influence of the old masters.

His first opportunity to travel in the West came when he joined a Geological Survey Expedition to the Yellowstone territory in 1871.  On this trip he befriended William Henry Jackson, the pioneer photographer, and through Jackson's photographs and Moran's paintings of the Yellowstone area, Congress was influenced to declare it a national park. Many times after this expedition, Moran traveled throughout Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah and Old Mexico painting their scenic grandeurs.

His enormous panorama, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, one of his many variations on the subject, hung in the national Capitol building for many years, as did another massive painting, The Chasm of the Colorado.  Both were purchased by Congress at ten-thousand dollars each.

Later in his career Moran visited New Mexico and became interested in painting the Indians and their surroundings near Acoma and Laguna.  But his most lasting fame will probably rest on his vivid and dramatic scenes of Western America's many national parks and monuments.

He continued to paint well into an advanced age, and died in Santa Barbara, California at eighty-nine.

Biography from Thomas Nygard Gallery:
Thomas Moran immigrated to America from England with his family as a child.  Though he received no formal art training, he was an apprentice to a wood engraver in Philadelphia during his teens.  From his experience, he learned the skillful manipulation of texture and value (light and dark), that became so evident in his works.

Moran became a western artist after working as an illustrator for magazines including Harper's and Scribner's.  At the age of thirty-four, he was invited to accompany Ferdinand V. Hayden's 1871 Geological Survey Expedition to "the Yellow Stone Territory."  Also traveling with the Hayden Expedition was pioneer photographer William Henry Jackson, with whom Moran forged a life-long friendship and collaborated on many artistic projects. Moran's paintings of Yellowstone's geysers, hot springs canyons, and cliffs, combined with Jackson's remarkable photos, played a major role in convincing Congress to make the region a national park in 1872.

After the Yellowstone trip, Moran's career as an expedition artist and painter blossomed. He continued to travel with subsequent Hayden surveys, and painted Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon as well as other wilderness regions for the next forty years.

In all his works Moran strived to recreate nature colorfully, vibrantly, and idealistically, while at the same time evoking the viewer's strong emotional response.  He used many media to achieve his artistic goals and created thousands of oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and chromolithographs during his long life.

Biography from Altermann Galleries and Auctioneers, IV:
Born in Bolton, Lancaster, in England, Thomas Moran was a painter and printmaker.  His brothers, Edward, John and Peter were also artists, and he himself actually studied under Edward.  In the mid 1800’s, the Moran family emigrated from England, and in 1844 settled in Philadelphia, where Thomas began his career as an illustrator.

Between the ages of 16 and 19, Moran was apprenticed to the Philadelphia wood engraving firm, Scattergood & Telfer.  He then began to paint more seriously in watercolor and expanded his work as an illustrator.  His brother Edward, who was an associate of James Hamilton, the successful marine painter, guided, encouraged and helped Moran during this time.

In the 1860’s, Moran produced lithographs of the landscapes around the Great Lakes. While in London in 1862, the first of many return trips to the land of his birth, Moran was introduced to the work of J.M.W. Turner, which remained a vital influence on him throughout his career.

With his wife, Mary Nimmo Moran, who was also an etcher and landscape painter, Moran participated in the Etching Revival, scraping fresh and romantic landscapes and reproductive etchings, such as "Conway Castle, after J.M.W. Turner" which was done in 1879.

During the 1870’s and 1880’s, Moran’s designs for wood-engraved illustrations appeared in most of the major magazines of the time, as well as gift books, which greatly added to his success and popularity.


Biography from William A. Karges Fine Art - Beverly Hills:
Thomas Moran was born in Lancashire, England, and, with his family, moved to the U.S. in 1844.  Inspired to paint by his older brother, Moran studied privately in Philadelphia before returning to England for further study.  While abroad, Moran was influenced by the hugely successful J.M.W. Turner, and Moran set about copying the master’s moody, atmospheric works.

Returning to the U.S., Moran made painting expeditions to the monuments of the American West, first to Yellowstone, then continuing to the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.  The finely executed panoramas from these treks won Moran tremendous acclaim that would stay with him for the rest of his life.

Escaping the harsh winters, Moran moved to Santa Barbara in 1922, where he died four years later.

Biography from McArt Gallery:
Thomas Moran was born on 12 February 1837 in Bolton, England, and was the son of a hand-loom weaver whose life had been irrevocably changed by the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Displaced by labor-saving machinery, Thomas Moran Sr. emigrated to America. He settled his family in Kensington, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia), in 1844.

By the time the younger Thomas completed grammar school and entered an apprenticeship with a local engraving firm, his older brother Edward had embarked upon a career as an artist. Harboring the same ambition, Thomas terminated his apprenticeship prematurely and began working with Edward in his studio.

Biography from Spanierman Gallery:
A key figure in the American landscape tradition, Thomas Moran created colorful and highly atmospheric paintings that captured the beauty and grandeur of the West and earned him a reputation as the “American Turner.” Exhibited in the United States and England, his views of Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Zion and other spectacular locales appealed to art audiences drawn to the wonders of the unspoiled frontier. However, Moran wasn’t just a pictorial interpreter of the Far West: an artist keenly attuned to his surroundings, he also painted intimate views of eastern Long Island and equally charming depictions of Venice.

Moran was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England on January 12th 1837. His family emigrated to the United States in 1844, settling in Philadelphia. At the age of sixteen, he was apprenticed to a local wood-engraving firm. Moran spent his spare time painting and drawing, and in 1856 he began exhibiting his work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He also shared the first of several studios with his older brother, Edward (1829-1901), who became a noted marine painter. Their younger sibling, Peter (1841-1914), also pursued an artistic career, going on to make a name for himself as a painter and etcher.

Although Moran was a self-taught artist, he received much encouragement and advice from the Philadelphia-based painter James Hamilton, who introduced him to the work of the popular English landscape and marine painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner. On a trip to Europe in 1861, Moran was able to view Turner’s dynamic, light-filled compositions firsthand, deriving inspiration from his striking color effects and his distinctive handling of light, air and mist. While abroad, Moran traveled throughout the countryside of England and Scotland. During his sojourn, he was also influenced by the landscape styles of artists such as John Constable and Claude Lorrain.

Returning to Philadelphia in the summer of 1862, Moran married Mary Nimmo, a former student who went on to become a noted etcher. During the next few years he continued to exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, in addition to working as an illustrator for books and periodicals. He also taught at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women. In 1866, he made a second trip to Europe, visiting England, France and Italy.

During the late 1860s, Moran continued his work as an illustrator, contributing his drawings to periodicals such as The Aldine and Scribner’s Monthly. In 1871, he served as the official artist for Dr. Ferdinand Hayden’s geological expedition to the Yellowstone region, during which he made delicate pencil drawings and watercolors of the unspoiled wilderness. These were later used as illustrations in Hayden’s report and as studies for larger oils, one of which, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (Smithsonian National Art Museum, Washington, D.C.), was purchased by the United States Congress in 1872. Moran’s panoramic depictions of Yellowstone also influenced Congress in its decision to declare it the country’s first national park. As well as establishing his reputation as the preeminent painter of the American West, Moran’s success led to his nickname, Thomas “Yellowstone” Moran. Having studied the waterways and rock formations of the Yellowstone region, he became an expert on the area’s physical geography, prompting some commentators to dub him a “scientist-artist.”

During the 1870s, Moran continued to respond to the allure of the West. In 1872 he visited the Yosemite Valley in California, and in the following year he accompanied Major John Wesley Powell’s expedition through the Rock Mountain region. In 1874, he painted in Colorado, again with Dr. Hayden. Five years later he painted and sketched in the Sierra Nevada and Lake Tahoe areas. He also visited the Teton Mountains in Wyoming, viewing the peak that Dr. Hayden had named Mount Moran in his honor. In the dramatic paintings resulting from these trips, Moran conveyed the grandeur, mystique and power of the West by means of a style in which he combined the luminous color effects of Turner with strong contrasts of light and shadow. His watercolors from this period also express the magical qualities of the wilderness. During the early 1880s, Moran took up etching, a medium that also contributed to his high ranking in the art world; in fact, one of his plates, exhibited in London, was singled out by John Ruskin, the prominent artist-theoretician, as “one of the finest produced in America and one of the best in modern art.”

Moran made additional trips to Europe in 1882, 1886, 1890 and 1910. In 1872, he moved with his family to New York City, where he was affiliated with such prestigious organizations as the National Academy of Design, the American Watercolor Society and the New York Etching Club. Six years later, on the recommendation of some artist-friends, he made his first visit to East Hampton, Long Island, at the time a quiet, rural village that reminded him of the English countryside. Drawn to the area’s tranquil ambiance, Moran made several visits to East Hampton in the ensuing years, purchasing some land in the center of town in 1882. After building a “charming old-fashioned” summer home and studio on his property, he went on to paint oil and watercolor views of local scenery––ranging from beaches and salt-marshes to windmills, houses and bridges––in which he captured the distinctive light and atmosphere of the East End. In contrast to his majestic views of the West, Moran’s Long Island pictures are smaller in scale and highly pastoral in tone, exuding a sense of light and space that harks back to his earlier exposure to the work of Constable. Later in his career, Moran also painted many vibrantly colored scenes of Venice based on trips he made to that city in 1886 and 1890.

In 1916, Moran began spending his winters in Santa Barbara, California, moving there permanently in 1922. He died in Santa Barbara on 26 August 1926 and was buried back in his beloved East Hampton, in the cemetery adjacent to Goose Pond.

Examples of Moran’s work can be found in major public collections throughout the United States, including the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Denver Art Museum; the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; the M. H. de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

CL

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