Go West, Moran

A lifetime of painting the country’s natural treasures was this tenderfoot’s destiny

This year is the 125th anniversary of Yellowstone National Park — the first in our huge park system to be established — so it is only fitting that a major exhibition of the paintings of Thomas Moran is traveling the country. Moran, whose watercolors were instrumental in persuading Congress to create the park, came to be known as "Yellowstone" Moran. He first went to Yellowstone with the Hayden Survey, the government's first official expedition to that part of the country, in 1871. Throughout his long life, he returned West many times, bringing his romantic vision to the Grand Canyon, Zion Canyon, the Tetons and many other spectacular vistas. But the Yellowstone's canyon remained the turning point of his life. Decades later, he would write of "its hold on my imagination with a vividness as of yesterday."

Moran envisioned his three major oil paintings from these trips — Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Chasm of the Colorado (the Grand Canyon), and Mountain of the Holy Cross (in the Colorado Rockies) — as a triptych; but they never have been hung together until this exhibition. On view at the National Gallery of Art until January 11, 1998, the "Thomas Moran" show will travel to the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa and the Seattle Art Museum.

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