Art of the American West
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Thomas Moran (American (born England), 1837-1926),
The Grand Canyon of the Colorado , 1913
oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in.; 63.5 x 76.2 cm
Gift of Mrs. C. N. Dietz, 1934.10

Moran, perhaps more than any other painter of his time, was responsible for making Americans aware of their great natural heritage. The enthusiastic response to his pictures of the West, particularly of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton region, were influential in Congress's decision to establish the National Park System in 1872. Moran's western subjects, and late his Venetian scenes, formed the basis of his long and prosperous career, which functioned completely outside the abstract tendencies of modern art.

Born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, Moran moved in 1844 with his family to Philadelphia, where he served an apprenticeship as a wood engraver. In the summer of 1861, after achieving some success in Philadelphia as a painter of romantic land and seascapes, Thomas and his older brother Edward, also a seascape painter, traveled to the British Isles. There Thomas studied and even copied Turner's works. The young painter joined the growing number of artists accompanying government-sponsored expeditions to the Far West. His trip to the Yellowstone in 1871 marked the beginning of Moran's long career painting great Rocky Mountain scenes and western landscapes.

His first journey to the Grand Canyon was in 1873 with John Wesley Powell. On August 13 he wrote that, after an arduous trek, they had reached the brink and “the whole gorge for miles lay beneath us, and it was by far the most awfully grand and impressive scene that I have ever yet seen.” His painterly fascination with the Canyon continued throughout his life; this scene may have been painted during the winter he spent on the South Rim in 1912–1913, one of his several extended sojourns there.

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