I made some time to read more about Moran and his time in Yellowstone. First, I found out that his Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone painting was fourteen feet by seven feet, if that puts it into perspective for anyone. There are several reviews of the painting from 1872 when the painting was finished...all very favorable, glowing reviews of the painting. It is so interesting how differently art was appreciated during this time period. It's grand opening was like a movie release is today, and reviewed like we appreciate movie reviews. Yellowstone's establishment as a national park also heightened anticipation for this painting. One man with the last name of Gilder (all I have in my book...) wrote about watching the painting take form - how at first it was an outline on bare canvas, then "great streaks of, to me, meaningless color flashed hither and thither. I saw only hopeless chaos." The painting continued to develop and take shape until "at last the artist's full, glorious idea shone perfect in every part." Interesting insight to Moran's process and approach to such a large canvas (his first of that size, I believe).
Thomas and his brother Edward went on a trip to England similar to my trip, which was *fascinating* to learn. I thought they had studied with JMW Turner, an English landscape painter, but they studied his artworks in England. They only had access to black and white prints of his work and wanted to see it in color. The Moran brothers traveled along the coast of England and discovered Turner's "willful disregard for topographical accuracy." More from Edward Moran on Turner:
I once took a lot of Turner's engravings of views on the English coast, and went with them, as nearly as I could judge, to the exact spots from which they must have been taken..He is very inaccurate - willfully so...His knowledge of the forms of land and sea and cloud was so thorough that he could do pretty much as he pleases with them, and yet keep within the bounds of naturalness.
I was stoked to read this...artists seeking wisdom of past artists! Fantastic. Studying Turner's paintings has a profound effect on Moran and his work:
Literally speaking, his [Turner's] landscapes are false; but they contain his impressions of nature, and so many natural characteristics as were adequately to convey that impression to others...The literal truth counts for nothing; it is within the grasp of anyone who has had an ordinary art education. The mere restatement of an external scene is never a work of Art.
This is what I have seen of Moran's work in Yellowstone so far. No scene too exactly replicated...but the essence of the landscape represented beautifully in oil or watercolor. His view of Yellowstone's Grand Canyon, even, is not the view from Artist Point, but a combination of his views, sketches, and experience in the canyon. But when I was there, I saw everything contained in his painting (minus the bear and men on horseback). I was impressed by the same thing that impressed him.
A description I read of his trip said Moran took detailed notes of rocks, trees, foliage, etc...but in his online diary I didn't find much of that. More "we camped here one night, then went there, sketched about the springs for the afternoon..." So maybe this information is notated in his sketchbook similar to how Church took notes. He was not bound by the scientific mission of the expedition, since he was along as a guest artist. He wanted to challenge Bierstadt who was the reigning western landscape painter (they actually had a squabble later about each wanting Congress to buy one of their paintings).
I remember first studying Moran and I was so impressed at the influence his (and Jackson's) artwork had on the creation of Yellowstone as our first national park. Years later, Jackson wrote: "The watercolors of Thomas Moram and the photographs were the most important exhibits brought before the committee." Hiram M. Chittenden also wrote: "They did a work which no other agency could do and doubtless convinced everyone who saw them that the regions where such wonders existed should be carefully preserved to the people forever." Amazing. His paintings were the first color images of Yellowstone anyone in the East ever saw (but native Americans had been living in the area for a long time). The power of art, my friends.
|Moran's second painting of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.|
|Finished! Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Lower Falls.|
|Packed up and ready to hike back.|
|Pics from earlier today...dead trees from a forest fire and new growth underneath.|
|Yes, this is my good side he says.|
|A JMW Turner landscape, as a point of reference for the artist Moran and his brother studied.|