Monday, February 4, 2013
Finding Thomas Moran
"Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone" by Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran may be more publicly known for his large oils on canvas works of the American West that hang in the US. Capitol building and many museums around the country, and they are indeed amazing works of one of America's premier artist's. But, to me, his sublime watercolor and gouache studies of places like Yellowstone and the Green River areas are what speak to me.
In 2002 I was living in Lander, WY. (and one day I may get around to writing about my serendipitous adventures of that time of my life) and borrowed a friends truck and I took a drive over to see the Teton's and visit The National Wildlife art Museum near Jackson.
It was a pretty overcast day, so the views of the mountains were obscured and I was too unfamiliar with the surroundings to just start taking off on every trail I saw, so I headed to the museum.
Once inside and as I wandered the halls viewing all manner of representations of animals and animals in landscapes, I came across a small collection of small watercolor and gouache paintings. Many of them incomplete, with the artist's pencil marks visible and scribbled notes here and there.
I still had a large part of the museum to explore, including the large permanent collection of Carl Rungius; an amazing artist in his own right and seemingly the whole museum is built around his work. But, I couldn't get those small watercolors out of my mind and found myself wandering back to that wall and strolling back and forth and savoring these little jewels.
I looked for a signature, seen a neatly scribed name of Moran. In my ignorance, I had no clue who he was, or his impact on the history of what eventually became our countries greatest accomplishment (in my mind), the creation of Yellowstone National Park and the ensuing creation of other parks and monuments.
I left the museum and headed back to Lander and the little one room studio I was living in behind a very nice older couple's garage and shortly forgot about Moran as I went about trying not to starve or freeze through a Wyoming winter. At the time I was trying to discover some things about myself and about life and art...a lot of things I have just had to figure out as I go. Very naive and ignorant I was and maybe still am to a degree about art. I come to it from no background, no family history in the arts, no "pedigree". So, still to this day, I have the lingering doubts...but, I'm getting better.
Now, 10 years on, I'm happily married, in love with my kids, and living far from the Wyoming landscape that I so love. But, I no longer have forgotten about Thomas Moran. The memory of those works are still a standout to me and after spending some time learning about Moran's explorations of the west, I am always inspired to keep at my own art and exploration...however humble and insignificant it is in comparison to one like the great Thomas Moran.