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"The Poetry of Place: Works on Paper by Thomas Moran
from the Gilcrease Museum"
2001-02-09 until 2001-02-15
Frick Art and Historical Center
USA United States of America
A major exhibition of the watercolors, sketches, and prints of Thomas
Moran (1837Ė1926), tracking his progress both as an artist and as an
artist-explorer in search of new landscapes, The Poetry of Place: Works on
Paper by Thomas Moran from the Gilcrease Museum opens to the public on
February 9, 2001, at The Frick Art & Historical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The exhibition features Moranís sketches from nature, complemented by
examples of his studio work, creating an intimate portrait of the artist and
demonstrating his belief in the inherent poetry of landscape.
The exhibition comprises 81 works on paper spanning the years 1856
through 1900. Also included is the oil painting, Vera Cruz (1885). The
exhibition is drawn in its entirety from the Gilcrease Museum, which, since
purchasing the contents of the artistís studio from his daughter, Ruth Moran, in
the late 1940s, has been the largest repository of works by Moran in the world.
Guest curators Donna Gustafson, chief curator of exhibitions at the AFA,
and Anne Morand, curator of art at the Gilcrease Museum, arranged the works
chronologically, charting the artistís many journeys throughout the United
States, Europe, and Mexico, and demonstrating his wide-ranging interests.
While celebrated as one of the finest chroniclers of the American West, Moran
strove to incorporate his personal experience of landscape into his paintings,
relying on drawings he created in the field to capture the essence of any given
scene. As Gustafson writes in her essay accompanying the exhibition, The
Poetry of Place focuses on Moran as an artist for whom the poetry of a landscape, or as Moran would say,
the 'impression' that a landscape induced, was more compelling than any
Born in Bolton, England, Thomas Moran moved to Philadelphia as a
child. Unlike many American artists of his time, Moran did not pursue an
academic course of study in Europe; instead, after a short apprenticeship with
an engraving firm he began his career in the Philadelphia studio of his elder
brother, the landscape painter Edward Moran. While studying prints and books
containing reproductions of the Old Masters, Moran came to admire the English
romantic painter J. M. W. Turner, and, in 1862, he traveled to England, the first
of his many trips to Europe, to study that artistís paintings.
In the summer of 1871, upon receiving a commission from Scribnerís
Magazine to enhance some poorly drawn illustrations of Yellowstone, Moran
became inspired to travel to the West. He accompanied Ferdinand V. Haydenís
government-sponsored scientific expedition to the Yellowstone region in the
summer of 1871, where he executed First Sketch Made in the West at Green
River, Wyoming (1871), a work informed by his study of Turnerís soft, yet
vibrant palette and his reaction to this extraordinary place.
The field sketches he made of the Yellowstone region during his visit
became the first color images of Yellowstone to be seen in the East and were
instrumental in persuading members of Congress to draft legislation that
established it as the first national park. Congress purchased Moranís majestic
painting Canyon of the Yellowstone (1872), the first painting to hang in the
nationís Capitol, approximately a year later.
The success of the sketches from Yellowstone became a turning point in
Moranís career, elevating his reputation and leading to many commissions, such
as the ďBlackmore WatercolorsĖa
series of 16 watercolors for the wealthy English industrialist William Blackmore.
these dramatic works, including The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1872)
and The Upper Falls of the Yellowstone (1872), are included in the exhibition.
Moran's fascination with the landscapes of the American West was
reinforced by his first trip to the Grand Canyon in 1873. A popular destination
for tourists at the time, the Grand Canyon held as much commercial interest for
Moran as it did aesthetic appeal, and, after 1892, he would return nearly every
year. In the watercolor The Grand Canyon of the Colorado (1892), Moran
reveals his ability to create an enormous visual space in a small format.
Another favorite sketching place for Moran was East Hampton, Long Island. In
the etching A Wreck, Montauk (1886), Moranís interest in the power of the sea
As the demand for images of the American West declined, Moran traveled
to Mexico and Cuba in 1883 and to Italy in 1885. These locales proved
particularly inspiring in terms of subject matter and the volume of field sketches
produced. Venice, in particular, proved to be an enduring subject through the
remainder of his career.
In her introduction in the exhibition catalogue, Morand states, The
sketches offer an opportunity for a deeper understanding of MoranĖthe
tremendous range of his travel as he sought new subjects, the aspects of the
natural world that engaged him, and the remarkable extent of his technical
Zion Valley, 1873.
Watercolor on wove paper,
8 1/2 x 6 in.