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Thomas Moran Portrait

Thomas Moran Portrait

Thomas Moran

Bolton, England 1837

Santa Barbara, California 1926

Active in:

  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Newark, New Jersey
  • East Hampton, New York
  • Colorado
  • Wyoming

Photo Caption:
Thomas Moran, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0001991

Photo Caption:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Luce Artist Quote

"In art, as in any profession, knowledge is power . . . I must know the geology. I must know the rocks and the trees and the atmosphere and the mountain torrents and the birds that fly in the blue ether above me." Moran, quoted in Kinsey, Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West, 1992


Landscape painter. Influenced by J.M.W. Turner, Moran is best remembered for his idealized views of the American West. In 1871 he accompanied a government surveying expedition to Yellowstone and was greatly inspired by the landscape; The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1893–1901) and The Chasm of the Colorado (1872) are two outstanding works.

Joan Stahl American Artists in Photographic Portraits from the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection (Washington, D.C. and Mineola, New York: National Museum of American Art and Dover Publications, Inc., 1995)

Additional Biographies

At age seven, Moran and his family emigrated from England to Philadelphia, where he was apprenticed briefly to a wood engraver. Although best known as a painter, Moran was also a prolific illustrator. In 1862, after a trip to Lake Superior, which inspired a series of views related to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Hiawatha, he and his brother Edward traveled to England. In 1871 Moran accompanied F. V. Hayden's geological survey of Yellowstone as a guest artist, with funding from Scribner's and railroad financier Jay Cooke. During the expedition Moran worked closely with photographer William H. Jackson. In 1872 Moran visited Yosemite and in 1873 joined John Wesley Powell's geological survey of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. In 1874 he was again with Hayden in Colorado, where he visited the newly discovered Mount of the Holy Cross. Although most of his life was spent in the East, he traveled west frequently, often as a guest artist of the Santa Fe Railway.

William Truettner, ed The West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 1820–1920 (Washington, D.C. and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991)