Yellowstone and the West: The Chromolithographs of Thomas Moran
6/7/2014 - 9/7/2014
In 1876, the publisher Louis Prang issued a portfolio of fifteen chromolithographic reproductions of watercolors by Thomas Moran titled The Yellowstone National Park. With exquisitely-printed images by an artist renowned for his monumental paintings of the West, and a text by the famous geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden — who called the portfolio a “just subject for national pride” — Moran and Prang capitalized on the recent establishment of Yellowstone as the first national park and the public’s growing fascination with western landscape.

Born in England in 1837, Moran immigrated to the United States with his family when he was seven years old, and apprenticed as an engraver and painter in his teens. An 1871 excursion to the Yellowstone region with Hayden, leader of a U.S. Geological Survey in the western territories, proved a turning point for the artist. Captivated by the hot springs, geysers, and colorful geography of the region, Moran catapulted to fame the following year when Congress purchased his monumental painting, The Grand Cañon of the Yellowstone, 1872, to hang in the Capitol in Washington, D.C. By the time of his death in 1926, Moran was intimately linked with Yellowstone and had created thousands of oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints of the West.

Highly-detailed color prints that rival the oil paintings and watercolors on which they are based, chromolithographs were tremendously popular in the nineteenth century. Thought to be the most democratic art form, they allowed anyone to acquire well-made reproductions of famous artworks to hang in their home.

The vibrancy and accuracy of Prang’s chromolithographs proved a faithful complement to Moran’s original watercolors, and helped spread the artist’s new-found fame even further.