The oil on canvas” The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone” is mounted on aluminum and displayed in Smithsonian American Art Museum. The museum at Yellowstone National Park's archives collections of different artists, including Thomas Moran. Moran was born in England in 1837, and his family moved to Philadelphia later 1. He began his artistic training in an under a wood engraver. Later he shifted to a full-time painting career. He soon established himself as a renowned painter and illustrator. The essay makes a formal analysis of the colorful and magnificent artwork by Moran- “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone”.The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone 1872-Thomas Moran "The Great Canyon of the Yellowstone" received a tremendous reception from its viewers when it was first displayed. The visitors were left in awe of the scene depicted by Moran. According to the artist, he wanted to present the character of that region before the public. The precipitous rocks painted by him have been done to precision. Still, Moran was an artist first and not a documenter of geology and topography 2. The painting intrigued his visitors, but Moran’s aim was to offer them scenic impressions of Yellowstone, rather than provide them with a visual accuracy. Moran’s chief desire was to call the attention to this enchanting southwestern country that could motivate the other landscape painters to capture the color and picturesqueness for pictorial interpretation. According to him, there was no other land that could compare to land of beauty and grandeur.
____________________1" Thomas Moran's Diary." Nps.gov, last modified Feb 12, 2016, http://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/historyculture/thomasmoransdiary.htm2 Joshua Johns, “The Lure of the West.” Thomas Moran and The American Landscape, last modified April 1, 1996, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/nature/cap3.html
____________3 Martha Kennedy, “Review of Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West by Joni Louise Kinsey,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln, no. 1 (1993): 125-126,
It is like standing at the edges of the cliff and gazing down at the deep valley. The waterfall is framed naturally between the rocky cliffs. The Rocky Mountain range with the rising snow covered peaks is just visible in the far distance. To the left of the Fall, one can see the largest geysers. The bright blue of the river track makes an intermittent appearance in the long depression in the distant landscape. A few men and horses are standing on the plateau of purplish rock in the foreground. Towards the right, the rugged rocks pile up high.Use of Lines Moran makes use of subtle and yet district lines in the artwork to define his elements in the composition. He spent days sketching “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone”, climbing to different vantage points to capture the right view. It is how he has captured the reproduction of rocky cliffs, nature and other weather elements with his lines and strokes that make the composition elegant and expressive. His lines and strokes indulge his romantic sense of perception and expression. The elements of his artwork carry a definite presence and importance in the pictorial interpretation of the land of beauty and grandeur. The lines in the artwork capture the hard edges and crisp sky as well as the pointed pine trees and the rocky surface of the Grand Canyon. The landscape tradition has been romanticized by the artist as he concentrated on the peaks with his line work and generalized the slopes. His Yellowstone experience and his sketching on site influenced his art for the rest of his life.
The impact of Colors . It is actually an experience to see Thomas Moran’s famous painting. The artist makes use of pale gold yellows, deep browns, and oranges to show the wonderful rocky cliffs and the deep valleys. On the other hand, he uses hues of blues and greens to show the trees, vegetation, and the distant sky. He makes a smart use of those colors that offers a distinct character to the scene in the artwork. There has been a disagreement on the use of colors and if he was able to get the colors right. After all, the canyon could look very different every moment depending on sun angle and the cover of the clouds. How an artist makes use of color is an important Element of Art, and he can control the mood of his views with the help of those colors 4 The artist uses pale gold coloring for the light descending in the valley that is surrounded by darker green and shadows of the rocks and framed by the distant landscape at the upper end. There is a use of crimson, scarlet, violet, dark amber and vermilion in the artwork that lends a strange but beautiful effect. The efficient use of colors makes a very calm and peaceful effect on the viewer.Light and shadows Moran creates the right perspective with his use of light and shadows. Without the proper shadows and the lighted areas, it would be impossible for the artist to heighten the expressive effect of the work. One gets a remarkable sense of depth and shadow because of those shadowed and lighted area. The absence of light and shadows would naturally flatten the image, and it would lose its perspective entirely. When looking at the artwork, one can get an illusion of the wind on the rocky cliffs and the scent of those pines in Grand Canyon. It is thrilling and adventures to look at the artwork.
Space The oil on canvas by Moran is successful in creating a spatial impression. He has used all
elements of colors, shadows and light plus the perfect strokes with his brush to create a
__________________4 Thomas Moran and Anne Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 1856-1923 (University of Oklahoma Press, 1996), 1- 313.
comprehensive aerial perspective in the background and foreground. His painting raises awareness in his viewer of the natural beauty of the land that they have never visited or knew existed. The mist-shrouded canyon and atmospheric turbulence in the natural forms reveal the seemingly limitless landscape painted by the landscape painter. Moran creates a maze of canyon walls ridden by the mist and deep ravines, contrasting with each other and yet existing in harmony. The fir trees and brush and the Colorado River, the distant blue skies done in the subtle blending of color create a deep visual impression.Style of the painter “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone” portrays the naturalistic style of Thomas Moran and his visionary approach to landscape painting that he is well known for. He introduced the American public to their vast land and natural heritage, thus encouraging tense enthusiasm. He has successfully captured the dynamic landscape of deep canyons with its ever-changing light and weather conditions with an expressive visual style that was unique to him. He was certainly distinct from others in capturing the unique contours and shadows of the Grand Canyon, allowing its romantic idealism and untouched state to touch the viewer. Moran never gave any explanation for his use of colors or why the painting “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone” was not a substitute for the actual park. Still, the artwork offers a unique experience to the viewers and visitors. It is impossible to evade the effect of those gorgeous cliffs and the rising white mist towards the blue skies above. The painti9gn is too grand in size and composition to get decided in words. It offers a sense of timelessness of the canyon itself.
"Thomas Moran's Diary." Nps.gov. Last modified Feb 12, 2016. http://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/historyculture/thomasmoransdiary.htm
Joshua Johns, “The Lure of the West.” Thomas Moran and The American Landscape, Last modified April 1, 1996, http://xroads.virginia.edu/~cap/nature/cap3.html
Kennedy, Martha. “Review of Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West by Joni Louise Kinsey,” University of Nebraska-Lincoln, no. 1 (1993): 125-126.
Moran, Thomas and Morand, Anne. Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 1856-1923. University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.