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Thomas Moran in Wyoming

May 30 - Aug. 16, 2009

Thomas Moran (English/American, 1837-1926) first sketch in the American West was that of Green River, Wyoming. The area would become a favored location for the artist who made the color and landscape of the region landmarks of his work.

Thomas Moran in Wyoming presents drawings, sketches, and a variety of prints that reflect his work made on multiple trips through Wyoming. It also suggests the burgeoning expansion of print media that contributed to the wide public appeal that intrinsically linked Moran with Yellowstone.

Throughout the nineteenth century, government-funded expeditions explored the vast territories of the American West. Often, an artist or photographer was part of the expedition team, responsible for providing visual support for scientific reports. Of the expedition artists, Moran became one of the most significant. In 1871, Moran funded his own trip to join the Hayden Expedition and accompany the official photographer, William Henry Jackson, to the Wyoming Territory. Together, the two captured and created images of the extraordinary geological features of the west, and in particular, of Wyoming. Stories of the geothermal activity and unusual topography of Yellowstone prompted the Hayden Expedition to travel to that region of Wyoming to verify the tales, which were often disbelieved. Upon returning to the east coast, Moran joined the effort to push Congress to designate Yellowstone as a protected national park. His studies and finished studio paintings, in addition to Jackson's photographs, were contributing factors in convincing legislators. In 1872, Yellowstone became the country's first National Park.

During the 1860's and 1870's, the magazine market in America was booming. Louis Prang and Company was a leading firm for the preparation of images for publication, including chromolithography. This lithographic process used an early form of color separation, using individual stones for each color or tone of an image that, when printed in succession, created a full color image. In 1873, Moran began working with Louis Prang and Company to convert a series of Yellowstone images into chromolithographs and publish them as a suite. Moran provided one of the company's lithographers, also known as a chromiste, with his original watercolors, which would then be used as a reference to create the series of color stones. Moran's images were printed using as many as 56 individual stones to create the image. The chromolithographs became a portfolio sold by L. Prang & Co. Individual images were also sold separately.

  • Funded in part by the National Advisory Board of the UW Art Museum.


Left: Thomas Moran (English/American, 1837-1926), (Untitled) Green River, Not dated, Etching, 5-1/4 x 8 in, In memory of Roald Fryxell, University of Wyoming Art Museum Collection, 2009.3.29

Center: Thomas Moran (English/American, 1837-1926), Bitter Creek, Wyoming, 1879, Watercolor, pencil, 4-7/8 x 10-7/8 inches, Gift of Fritiof Fryxell, University of Wyoming Art Museum Collection, 2009.3.9

Right: Thomas Moran (English/American, 1837-1926), Untitled, Not dated, Pencil, 7 x 9-3/4 inches, Gift of Fritiof Fryxell, University of Wyoming Art Museum Collection, 2009.3.5

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