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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thomas Moran

We often feel, in studying American art, that it developed in an American vacuum quite apart from anything happening anywhere else in the world. Of course 100 years ago there was not the instant, world-wide homogenization of art and cultural we know today. There was isolation, but it was not perfect. European artists came to this country, and often were seduced by it's beauty to the point they either could not leave, or they returned again and again. Of course, American artsits also studied in Europe. Typical of this is one of the premier American landscape artists, Thomas Moran.

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone,
1872, Thomas Moran
Born in England, raised in Philadelphia, Moran had no formal training in art until he went back to England where he studied, in fact copied, the work of J.M.W. Turner, who prefigured even the French Impressionists by almost a generation in his studies of light, weather, and nature. Back in the U.S., he began his carreer as a watercolorist, later carrying over the fresh, quick, bright, translucent color effects into his oil paintings. No longer hamstrung by the limiting size of paper, like Bierstadt and others, his canvases grew to immense proportions, up to 12 feet in length and 7 feet in height.

Eventually, he accompanied Ferdinand V. Hayden's U.S.Geological Expedition throughout the West where he gathered material for some of his most important works. In 1872 he painted the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. His work was undoubtedly a strong influence upon Congress in that during the same year, it established Yellowstone as America's first national park.

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