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Thomas Moran was toiling as an illustrator in 1871 when a spectacular break came his way. It was an idea for an article for Scribners Magazine about a relatively unknown natural wonder found in western Wyoming. This geological phenomenon would be fully explored and surveyed by the Hayden Expedition, in which photographer William Jackson and Thomas Moran were to photograph and illustrate many of the natural wonders to be found. Other Eastern artists had been out west, Albert Bierstadt, John Kensett, Sanford Gifford, Worthington Whittredge, to name a few, but Moran sought out the unusual and the Hayden Expedition to the Yellowstone region would prove to be most unique. The photographs and sketches resulting from the trip gave him direction for the rest of his career. They helped him produce his masterpiece, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The sketches were also the primary evidence presented by the Hayden Expedition in testimony before Congress that directly led to the establishment of Yellowstone National Park, America first National Park. Never before had the nation's legislature seen such colorful evidence of an unimaginable wonderland of geologic phenomena and natural beauty. Acting out of character, Congress moved at lightning speed voting the sum of $10,000. to purchase “Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone" to hang it in the United States Capitol, where it still hangs today as the property of the Department of the Interior.

After the celebrity of the Yellowstone season of 1872-73, Moran became deluged with invitations to accompany other surveyors. The following expedition Moran chose to accompany was lead by Col. John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran who made the first successful descent of the Colorado River in 1869. During the summer of 1873 Moran joined the second Powell Expedition down the Colorado along with New York Times correspondent Justin Colburn. The two became fast friends, and in observance of a tradition of early western expeditions to name some of the sites encountered after members of the expedition. Mount Moran in Wyoming came as a result of the earlier Yellowstone trip, and Colburn was equally honored the approach to the Canyon through Utah on the trip. After traveling through what is today Canyonlands National Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation area, the group reached their destination in August, 1873.

Upon his return east later that year, Moran produced another masterpiece, "Chasm of the Colorado;" and again it was quickly purchased by Congress to hang in the Capitol. Moran's success at getting Congress to purchase his paintings enraged his now archrival Bierstadt, with the two almost coming to blows in 1878 over another government commission. Despite no more government commissions, Moran's success was guaranteed, and he was able to spend the rest of his career painting what he wanted to most, exotic locations out west, his home on Long Island and a large series of Venice paintings. He died in Santa Barbara, California in 1927 after a very long and rewarding career. After he died his body was brought back east and buried across Main Street from his home in Easthampton NY.

02wendelTheodore Wores (1859-1939), Thomas Moran Studio, Easthampton, painted circa 1895-1900

03Studio InteriorThomas Moran Studio Interior, early 1900s

Built by the artist in the early 1880's when Moran was flush with the success of his two stellar western painting trips, his studio remained in private hands until 2007 when it was bequeathed to Guild Hall, a museum in Easthampton with the plans originally for it to be used as a guest artist studio. Upon closer inspection the historic building was in dire need of extensive renovation so a separate vehicle was set up to finance such an effort. Eight years later after some $5 million was raised the house is almost completely restored and is scheduled to be reopened this September 2016 and run by the Thomas Moran Trust.

04DSC 0318Thomas Moran (1837-1926), A Long Island River, 1908 (Easthampton)

04DSC 0520Windmill aAcross Main Street from Moran's home, next to his gravesite

05DSC 0502Thomas Moran Studio, as it appeared in 2013

06LI Moran home EasthamptonThomas Moran Studio, June 2016

07Thomas Moran East Hampton Long IslandThomas Moran (1837-1926), East Hampton, Long Island, 1897

08moran sunsetThomas Moran (1837-1926), Sunset, Long Island

09MoranTOldBridgeoverHookPondThomas Moran (1837-1926), Old Bridge over Hook Pond, 1907

11th m WH painting 1895Prime Minister David Cameron and President Barak Obama meeting in the Oval Office, Moran's painting of the Tetons hangs to the upper right - epa b.v. / Alamy Stock Photo

12 TM790Thomas Moran The Three Tetons1895Thomas Moran (1837-1926), The Three Tetons 1895, Most of the paintings done by the artist after 1882 were produced in his Easthampton Studio


About the Author

Robert Alexander Boyle

Robert Alexander Boyle

 Alexander Boyle is a graduate of Trinity College, Hartford, CT where he majored in History. Prior to graduation he co-authored the seminal book Acid Rain in 1983. Alex has worked for the Metropo...