Thomas Moran: Recorder and Illustrator 1837-1926
Thomas Moran was born on February 12 1837 in England. He was the son of a hand-loom weaver. The life of the family was changed by the Industrial Revolution. Displaced by machinery, Thomas Moran Sr. and his family immigrated to America, in 1844.
Thomas started an apprenticeship with a engraving firm. His brother Edward had started a vocation as an artist. Having the same desire, Thomas terminated his apprenticeship at the engravers and began working with his brother.
Moran was hired as an illustrator and colorist at Scribner's Monthly. By the late 1860s, he was the chief illustrator of the magazine. This would prove to be a unique position in which Moran launched his career as one of the best American painters of landscapes. Thomas’ love of literature is evident in his fantasy paintings, the most well known were Salvator Rosa and the Brigands.
Moran was married to Scottish born Mary Nimmo Moran (1842–1899), who was an etcher and landscape artist. Thomas Moran's vision of the Western landscape was critical of Yellowstone National Park. He preferred the land to be open and free and not designated as a park. In 1871 Dr. Ferdinand Hayden, director of the United States Geological Survey, invited Moran to join him and his expedition to Yellowstone Park in Montana.
During forty days in the rugged wilderness, Thomas Moran documented 30 sites and wrote a diary of the expedition. His sketches and the photographs produced by William Henry Jackson, made him famous and helped the US Congress decide to make the Yellowstone region as the first official national park in the USA in 1872.
Moran continued making paintings of his travels in the Great West. Among these were a group of paintings depicting the pueblos and homes of the aboriginal people who once lived there.
Moran began publishing his work in national periodicals and he painted large paintings, including The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1872) and Chasm of the Colorado (1873-74). They were purchased by the US Congress. During the next forty years he traveled throughout the United States. He was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1884. Mount Moran in Grand Teton National Park is named after Moran.
With his wife, Mary Nimmo Moran (1842-99), an etcher and landscape painter, he was part of the Etching Revival, bucolic and romantic landscapes in etchings. His designs of wood-engraved illustrations were in most of the major magazines of the era and in books as well.
Moran died in Santa Barbara in 1926.