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Thomas Moran
Rainbow over the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
30 1/8 x 37 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Marion H. Conley

Moran first visited the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in 1871 when he accompanied the scientists of Ferdinand Hayden's United States Geological Expedition to record this unexplored area. He wrote to his wife that “on reaching the brink the whole gorge for miles lay beneath us and it was by far the most awfully grand and impressive scene that I have ever yet seen.” By the time he painted this view almost three decades later, the frontier was officially closed and Yellowstone had become the nation's first national park. The pale impressionist palette, immense rainbow, and towering peaks enveloped in mist show Moran less interested in recording topography than in celebrating a natural wonder that had become a national icon. After the American continent was settled coast-to-coast and increasingly industrialized, such mythic views of the Far West became a source of great pride for Americans.