Thomas Moran Watercolor, Artifact of the Month for April 2012

April 01, 2012 Posted by: Kathleen Moenster, Assistant Curator

Watercolor by Thomas Moran entitled, "Lower Entrance to Madison Canyon, August 8, 1871 (Yellowstone)


Thomas Moran (1837-1926) was one of the outstanding American artists of the nineteenth century.  He left a legacy of works that define the western landscape. He concentrated on depicting scenery of what is now several western national parks including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Devils Tower, Yosemite and the Grand Tetons.  He also traveled with Ferdinand Hayden's 1871 geological survey of the Upper Yellowstone and documented many sites along the way with his sketches and watercolors.  Thomas Moran's daughter, Ruth Moran, donated a large collection of her father's works including oil paintings, etchings, black and white washes, pencil sketches, diaries, photographs and personal items to Yosemite National Park in 1935.

 In 1957, a large part of this collection was transferred to Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.  Amongst the many pieces in this collection is a sample of the work Thomas Moran did during Hayden's geological survey.  It is a watercolor (Jeff 4299) entitled, "Lower Entrance to Madison Canyon, August 8, 1871 (Yellowstone)".  The title and Thomas Moran's signature (T Moran) can be seen in pencil starting in the upper left-hand corner and running along the very top edge of the watercolor.  This is just one of many sketches and watercolors done during the Hayden survey.  These pieces are of great significance not just artistically but these works, along with photographs produced by survey member William Henry Jackson, helped to inspire Congress to establish the Yellowstone region as the first national park in 1872.

Thomas Moran Watercolor of Yellowstone

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Last updated: April 10, 2015

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