Thomas Moran

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Portrait of Thomas MoranTHOMAS MORAN, English born American painter (1837-1926)

Born in England, but associated with the Rocky Mountain school of landscape painters, Moran's family came to American in 1844. The Moran family had several family members become artists including Peter, Edward and Thomas the youngest. After completing grammar school, Moran took an apprenticeship as an engraver at Scattergood & Tefler, Thomas concentrated on refining his own technique in watercolor, studying under James Hamilton. Hamilton introduced Thomas to the work of J.M.W. Turner, whose painterly style remained a major influence throughout Moran's career. His elder brother Edward, a working artist, encouraged Thomas' own artistic aspirations, and by the mid-1860s, Moran was already exhibiting sophisticated and accomplished paintings.

Upon marrying Scottish-born etcher and landscape painter Mary Nimmo, Moran relocated his family to New York where he was hired as an illustrator at Scribner's Monthly. This appointment proved to be significant, as he was soon promoted to the position of chief illustrator, a move that set him on course to become one of the country's most important landscape artists.

Thomas Moran's name is closely associated with the creation of Yellowstone National Park. In 1871, the artist was invited by Dr. Ferdinand Hayden, director of the United States Geological Survey, to join his expedition team headed for the Yellowstone region. Funded by American financier Jay Cooke and Scribner's Monthly, Moran became a member of what was to become the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. For 40 days, Moran painted and sketched over 30 different sites in the region, which, in tandem with the remarkable photographs of his expedition colleague, William H, Jackson, proved beyond doubt the true majesty of the area's natural beauty. Their collective work was undeniably instrumental in influencing Congress to elevate and preserve the Yellowstone expanse, making it a national park in 1872. After the survey, Moran carried a lifelong tie to Yellowstone, even adopting a new monogram signature, a linked T & M that when connected formed a "Y" for Yellowstone.
At the conclusion of the Hayden Survey, Moran continued his work both as a landscape artist and commercial illustrator. He entered a successful business relationship with the Santa Fe Railroad, which commissioned him to produce paintings of the Grand Canyon for its own marketing purposes. The paintings were made into magnificent color lithographs which served to introduce tourists to the beauty of the west.

In his later years, Moran continued to travel extensively, and after the death of his wife in 1900, returned to Yellowstone with his daughter Ruth. The pair visited Yellowstone nearly every year for the next twenty years, spending their winter months at the Grand Canyon, with Moran producing promotional paintings and illustrations for local businesses in exchange for hotel accommodations and travel expenses.

Healthy and energetic even in old age, Moran remained prolific. In 1884, he was elected to the National Academy of Design, and traveled to Europe as late as 1911while in his mid 70s. However, his love for the Rockies never ceased. "I have painted them all my life," he said, "and shall continue to paint them as long as I can hold a brush."