"I looked at the Alps, but they are nothing compared to the majestic grandeur of our wonderful Rockies. I have painted them all my life and I shall continue to paint them as long as I can hold a brush. I am working as hard as I ever did...."
We often feel, in studying American art, that it developed in an American vacuum quite apart from anything happening anywhere else in the world. Of course 100 years ago there was not the instant, worldwide homogenisation of art and cultural we know today. There was isolation, but it was not perfect. European artists came to this country - and often were seduced by its beauty to the point they either could not leave, or returned again and again. And, American artists studied in Europe. Typical of this is one of the premier American landscape artists, Thomas Moran.
Born in England, raised in Philadelphia, Moran had no formal training in art until he went back to England where he studied, in fact copied, the work of J.M.W. Turner, who prefigured even the French Impressionists by almost a generation in his studies of light, weather, and nature. Back in this country, he began his career as a watercolourist, later carrying over the fresh, quick, bright, translucent colour effects into his oil paintings. No longer hamstrung by the limiting size of paper, like Bierstadt and others, his canvases grew to immense proportions, up to 12 feet in length and 7 feet in height. Eventually, he accompanied Ferdinand V. Hayden's U.S.Geological Expedition throughout the West where he gathered material for some of his most important works. In 1872 he painted the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. His work was undoubtedly a strong influence upon Congress in that during the same year, it established Yellowstone as America's first national park.
contributed by Lane, Jim
13 November 1997