Thomas Moran

born Bolton, England 1837-died Santa Barbara, CA 1926
Media - J0001991_1b.jpg - 89335
Thomas Moran, © Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0001991
Bolton, England
Santa Barbara, California, United States
Active in
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
  • Newark, New Jersey, United States
  • East Hampton, New York, United States
  • Colorado, United States
  • Wyoming, United States
  • American

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)

Artist Biography

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)

Luce Artist Biography

Thomas Moran was the first American painter to capture the grandeur of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Born in England, he immigrated to America as a child and apprenticed to an engraver in Philadelphia. The turning point in Moran's career came in 1871 when he joined the Hayden expedition, the first to survey the Yellowstone region in detail. Moran's images of dramatic canyons, hot springs, and geysers captured the imagination of the American public and helped bring about Yellowstone's designation as America’s first national park. (Anderson, Thomas Moran, 1997)


An oil on canvas of a man lifting a curtain into his museum
The Great American Hall of Wonders
July 14, 2011January 8, 2012
The exhibition The Great American Hall of Wonders examines the nineteenth-century American belief that the people of the United States shared a special genius for innovation.
An artwork image of a woman
Sargent, Whistler, and Venetian Glass: American Artists and the Magic of Murano 
October 8, 2021May 8, 2022
This exhibition brings to life the Venetian glass revival of the nineteenth century on the famed island of Murano and the artistic experimentation the city inspired for artists such as John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler.

Related Books

Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Lure of the West: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum commemorates Treasures to Go, a series of eight exhibitions from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, touring the nation through 2002. The Principal Financial Group is a proud partner in presenting these treasures to the American people.
Graphic Masters: Highlights from the Smithsonian American Art Museum
Graphic Masters celebrates the extraordinary variety and accomplishment of American artists’ works on paper. Exceptional watercolors, pastels, and drawings from the 1860s through the 1990s reveal the central importance of works on paper for American artists, both as studies for creations in other media and as finished works of art. Traditionally a more intimate form of expression than painting or sculpture, drawings often reveal greater spontaneity and experimentation. Even as works on paper become larger and more finished, competing in scale with easel paintings, they retain a sense of the artist’s hand, the immediacy of a thought made visible.