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Thomas Moran (American, 1837-1926)


Birth Place: Bolton (Bolton, England, United Kingdom)

Regarded as one of the foremost American artists of the nineteenth century, Thomas Moran is best known for his magnificent views of the American West, in particular his detailed depictions of Yellowstone that played a major role in convincing Congress to make the region a national park in 1872. Like the other great landscapists associated with the Hudson River School, such as Frederic Church and Albert Bierstadt, Moran ventured far into nature for firsthand inspiration of the breathtaking scenery he later worked up in the studio from small drawings and watercolors he had produced on site. Though the artist spent a great deal of time painting the American frontier, it is his dreamy, jewel-toned depictions of Venice that perhaps best epitomize his intent to imaginatively capture the romantic, picturesque beauty and the unique sensory experience of a locale, rather than depicting reality in topographically accurate detail. Moran's ability to convey the scenic splendor of the Venice canal in a unique, poetic manner led to the widespread popularity of his views of the Italian city.

Born in Bolton, England, in 1837 as one of seven children, Thomas Moran immigrated to the United States with his family in 1844, settling in Philadelphia. At the age of sixteen, he was apprenticed to a local engraving firm and spent his spare time painting and drawing. In 1856 the young artist began exhibiting his work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Although Moran was self-taught, he received guidance from the painter James Hamilton, who introduced him to the work of the popular English landscape and marine painter Joseph Mallord William Turner. After studying illustrations of Turner's dynamic paintings, Moran was determined to see the artist's work in person. In 1862 he sailed for Britain and spent several weeks at the National Gallery in London studying Turner's works firsthand. Moran began to emulate the artist's atmospheric, light-filled compositions, deriving inspiration from his striking color effects and masterful handling of light, air and mist.

In 1916 Moran moved from his longtime home and studio in East Hampton, New York, to the more hospitable climate of Santa Barbara, California. No longer able to undertake arduous journeys by horse or mule into the rugged mountains and canyons he still enjoyed painting, the elderly artist relied instead upon a trove of plein air reference material he had made earlier, sometimes decades before.

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