"There is a mountain in the distant West
That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines,
Displays a cross of snow upon its side."

"The Cross of Snow"... Longfellow

Born in the city of Bolton, Lancashire, England on 12 January 1837, Thomas Moran was destined to become one of America's greatest landscape artists. He and his family sailed from Liverpool, England in April 1844 to America. Thomas Moran Sr., a weaver by trade, settled the family in Philadelphia...one of the textile centers of the country.

Thomas showed an early interest in art, and at the age of 15 he sought employment in an engraver's shop...the chosen occupation of young aspiring artist of that day. Never really mastering the engravers trade, his drawings drew the attention of his employer. Noting the quality of his work, he was kept busy sketching designs on the engraver's blocks for others to engrave. Moran began to spend his spare time doing watercolors and drawing, which he easily sold for $10 to $15 apiece.

In 1856, Tom and his brother Edward, who was also an aspiring painter, rented a studio in Philadelphia. There, they could study and apply their craft full time. Thomas was to show a growing interest in the works of H.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), an English painter of note. His early works reflected much of the style of Turner. This can be seen in the paintings below...(Turner, left...Moran, right)

Thomas Morans' first extended trip in search of the scenic wonders was to the Lake Superior region in 1860..."to the shores of Gitchee Gumee". No artist at that time had visited this area.

In 1861, he and his brother sailed for the British Isles where Tom spent months studying the pictures of his idol, Turner. Moran would learn much from Turner about color and light, and would be referred to later as "the American Turner".

Upon his return to America in 1862, Moran married Mary Nimmo. Mollie took an activity interest in his art and later developed her own skills as an artist...and became his most trusted critic. They travelled together on many of his trips across the country and to Europe in the years to come.

"When she criticized my work...she knew why and she was always right."

A boyhood friend of Thomas' , an editor at Scribner's Monthly, began to publish wood engravings of his work. Eastern readers where hungry for information about the West, so articles by those who had been there and seen this primitive country was the fare of magazines and newspapers of the day.

After the final tracks were laid to the first trans-continental railroad in 1869, the government sponsored several survey teams to explore and map this new land. Moran's first trip with a geological survey team would be to Yellowstone...


Solitude, 1869
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