• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2003

    Important American Paintings, Drawings And Sculpture

    21 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 28

    Thomas Moran (1827-1926)

    Santa Barbara Mission

    Price Realised  


    Thomas Moran (1827-1926)
    Santa Barbara Mission
    signed with initials in monogram and dated 'TMoran/1916' and bears artist's thumbprint (lower right)
    oil on canvas
    16 x 20¼ in. (40.6 x 51.4 cm.)

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    Thomas Moran moved from East Hampton, New York to Santa Barbara in 1916, taking some refuge in the more temperate climate. He "took a modest bungalow on Anacapa Street not far from the old Santa Barbara Mission...Through the window he could look out at 'the dreamy beauty of the Channel Islands.' In the opposite direction could be seen the granite backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains, rounded by winds and rain, not unlike the Scottish hills, taking on hues of heliotrope in the afternoon light, over which were bent the olive shade of live oak trees and sycamores, in tapestry-like arrangements. He found many pleasing scenes there, and he began to put them on canvas. 'The California landscape,' he said, 'draws more compactly than the Eastern landscape. The eucalyptus trees and the oak trees form masses that are simple compared to the more straggly trees back there;' and so to the Yosemite scenes and the Monterey seascapes of his California series he added wooded canyon views from the Santa Ynez Mountains or wooded glens in or about Santa Barbara, where live oaks and eucalyptus trees abounded." (T. Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, Norman, Oklahoma, 1966, p. 235)

    Santa Barbara Mission demonstrates how California appealed to the artist's romantic sense of color and his mastery of atmospheric effects. Moran idealizes the hilly California countryside by piling the sky with billowy clouds and casting an ethereal breaking light onto the rich, green foliage. The effect is dramatic yet serene, "with land and sky united harmoniously by the light reflected from the surface of the painting." (R.G. Pisano, Long Island Landscape Painting: 1820-1920, New York, 1985)

    This painting will be included in Stephen L. Good and Phyllis Braff's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.


    The artist.
    Private collection, acquired from the above.
    Robert J. Flick, Los Angeles, California.
    Margaret Flick, Los Angeles, California.
    Newhouse Galleries, New York.
    Mr. and Mrs. Kay Kimbell, Fort Worth, Texas.
    Sotheby's, New York, 16 October 1974, lot 25.
    J.N. Bartfield Galleries, Inc., New York, acquired from the above.
    Acquired by the present owner from the above.

    Pre-Lot Text

    Christie's is pleased to offer works from the superb collection of Arthur J. Stegall, Jr. This unusually comprehensive collection presents a view of Western American Art that includes numerous examples by the finest painters and ranges from an early work by Charles M. Russell to paintings created in the mid-twentieth century.

    Arthur J. Stegall, Jr. was born in Jackson, Tennessee in 1924, a direct descendant of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Nelson. After serving in World War II, he returned to Vanderbilt University--older, confident, and determined to enjoy life and the adventures it presented. In 1956, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona where he co-founded Lawrence & Stegall Ranches; by the mid-1960s, the company had grown into one of the largest land and cattle-ranching companies in the West.

    Arthur, while a businessman, was also immersed in the cowboy culture; he lived it, often rode with the cowboys on huge ranches that stretched beyond anything you could see, and loved traveling through the distinctive landscape of California and the Southwest. His curiosity and enthusiasm for learning about each region's art community grew from his enjoyment of the land and its people. Art collecting added another dimension to the pleasure he took in the world he had made his home, one that has now largely vanished into commercial development. Arthur learned about the artists on his own as well as by building relationships with art dealers and museum people. Arthur's early support of the Phoenix Art Museum, to which he frequently lent works, allowed him to share his delight, excitement and personal enthusiasm for American Western Art.

    Arthur approached the building of his collection with his characteristic sense of adventure. He was fortunate to be an early player in the field of collecting American Western Art and was able to to acquire works by the leading painters of the Taos School. Remarkable examples by Oscar Berninghaus, Eanger Couse, Nicolai Fechin, and Joseph Henry Sharp, were among his favorites. Arthur was able to find paintings of exceptional quality and rarely parted with any of the works he chose. A true collector, Arthur loved living with his collection of American Western Art--even after he stopped riding with the cowboys.

    Property from the Collection of Arthur J. Stegall, Jr.


    J.N. Bartfield Art Galleries, Inc., The American West: Paintings and Sculpture, New York, n.d., n.p., no. 41, illustrated.