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Thomas Moran: Pastoral Views and Seashores

May 30 - Aug. 16, 2009

South One Gallery

Thomas Moran (English/American, 1837-1926) is widely recognized for his images of Wyoming, particularly of Yellowstone and Green River. These regions, however, were only one subject that captivated the artist's attention. In addition to his travels through the American West, he sought inspiration along the eastern seaboard and in Europe. His travels resulted in an extensive number of prints, which he considered as studies and as individual, completed works. Thomas Moran: Pastoral Views and Seashores focuses on his etchings, highlighting Moran's intense study of both landscape and coastal scenes.

In 1862, Moran and his brother Edward, who was also an artist, traveled to England to see the works of his greatest influence – J.M.W. Turner (English, 1775-1851). Considered the first Impressionist, Turner's sublime landscape paintings, watercolors, and drawings were available for study at the Turner Bequest (National Gallery, London). There, they copied Turner's paintings and re-traced the English coastal route from a sketching trip made by Turner. Moran realized the poetic license Turner had taken in depicting the landscape in his drawings, a practice that he would adapt to his own creative process. Moran was also influenced by the works of John Constable (English, 1776-1837) and Turner's own inspiration, Claude Lorraine (French, c. 1600-1682). Together, these prolific painters informed Moran's development as an artist.

After achieving national acclaim with his sketches and paintings of the American West in the 1870's, Moran returned to his long-time interest in marine subjects. In 1884, he purchased a cottage in East Hampton, Long Island and built a studio on Main Street. Here, he had ready access to the beach and, from the shoreline, could study the effects of light and water. He would also return to the print medium of etching and through the 1880's, would create numerous images of the eastern shore, including the industrial landscape of New York, the sand dunes along the shores, the turbulence of crashing waves, and the occasional shipwreck. His paintings of pastoral views of Long Island rivaled the popularity of his dramatic Yellowstone scenes.

Tireless in his pursuit for new subjects, Moran continued to travel widely. His trip to Venice in 1886 was of particular interest since it too was a favored city of Turner. Again retracing Turner's steps, he visited sites he had seen in Turner's paintings. Venice was a magical place where Moran could further his exploration of the effects of light and water. Paintings created from his Venetian watercolors would be structured similarly to his Green River paintings, anchoring the composition on the recognizable architecture and inventing foreground elements such as the gondolas and ships in place of the Indians on horseback of the Green River images.

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


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