First Retrospective of Landscapes by Thomas Moran at the National Gallery of Art, Includes Yellowstone Images that Inspired U.S. Congress to Establish First National Park
The first retrospective of paintings by Thomas Moran (1837-1926), long recognized as one of America's foremost landscape artists, was on view at the National Gallery of Art, East Building, September 28, 1997 - January 11, 1998. The exhibition featured approximately 100 of Moran's finest watercolors and oil paintings, which provided Americans with breathtaking views of the American West, including the first images of Yellowstone. Viewers will be able to see a selection of Moran's paintings of Yellowstone that inspired Congress to establish the first national park in the United States. The Thomas Moran exhibition coincides with the 125th anniversary celebration of the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Also included in the exhibition is the painting, The Three Tetons, which hangs in the Oval Office of the White House.
In the period of renewal following the Civil War, the government sponsored survey teams to explore and map the vast resources of the American West. Moran's original watercolors, completed on the first survey expedition to Yellowstone in 1871, are being lent by the National Park Service as part of its anniversary celebration. They will be installed with photographs by the noted photographer William Henry Jackson who traveled with Moran on the historic expedition.
Moran's watercolors of Yellowstone played a decisive role in the creation of the first national park in the United States just a few months after being seen by the public and the U.S. Congress. Moran subsequently rose to national prominence when his first great painting of the American West, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1872), with its vast, spectacular landscape, was purchased by Congress to hang in the U.S. Capitol.
The exhibition included Moran's three most famous oil paintings, hung together for the first time as the western triptych he intended: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1872) and Chasm of the Colorado (1873-1874) from the Department of the Interior, and Mountain of the Holy Cross (1875) from the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, Los Angeles.
Accompanying the exhibition was a comprehensive, fully illustrated catalogue with contributions from Nancy Anderson, associate curator of American and British paintings, National Gallery of Art, along with other leading Moran scholars including Anne Morand, curator of art, Gilcrease Museum; Joni Kinsey, professor of art history, University of Iowa; and Thomas Bruhn, acting director, Benton Museum, University of Connecticut, Storrs. The catalogue, published by the National Gallery of Art in association with Yale University Press, was the first extensive, scholarly work on Moran. It includes an illustrated chronology, color plates of every painting in the exhibition, and appendices of rare Moran documents available in part for the first time. One of the appendices included illustrations of the series of chromolithographs that Moran did for Louis Prang in 1876, widely recognized as the finest chromolithographs done in nineteenth-century America. For the first time these were reproduced in color together with original text.