Thomas Moran (1837-1926)
Thomas Moran (1837-1926)

In the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming

Thomas Moran (1837-1926)
In the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming
signed with conjoined initials and dated 'TMoran. 1899' (lower left)--inscribed with title (lower right)
watercolor and pencil on paper
11½ x 16 in. (29.2 x 40.6 cm.)
The artist.
Mr. and Mrs. George P. Cammann, gift from the above.
Frederic A. Cammann, by descent.
George H. Hazen, by descent, by 1928.
Private collection, by descent.
"American Water-Color Society," American Art Annual, vol. 1, New York, 1899, p. 248, no. 281.
Clinton Academy, Memorial Exhibition: Paintings and Drawings by Thomas Moran, N.A., exhibition checklist, East Hampton, New York, 1928, no. 4.
C. Clark, Thomas Moran: Watercolors of the American West, exhibition catalogue, Austin, Texas, 1980, pp. 144, 172, no. 44, cat. no. 168.
C. Clark, Thomas Moran's Watercolors of the American West, Ph.D. dissertation, Case Western Reserve University, 1981, pp. 313, 314, no. 168, illustrated.
New York, American Water-Color Society, 31st Annual Exhibition at the Academy of Design, January 31-February 26, 1899, no. 281.
East Hampton, New York, Clinton Academy, Memorial Exhibition: Paintings and Etchings by Thomas Moran, N.A., July 18-August 7, 1928, no. 3.
Fort Worth, Texas, Amon Carter Museum, and elsewhere, Thomas Moran: Watercolors of the American West, May 23-July 13, 1980, no. 44.

Lot Essay

The stunning and remarkable terrain of the American West engrossed the American public of the late nineteenth century and Thomas Moran's watercolors of the subject rank among the most significant accomplishments in the history of Western American art. Works such as In the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming remain as fresh and captivating to today's viewers as they did when first produced over one hundred years ago and act as important visual documents of the nation's history and landscape.

In the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming is a powerful composition, defined by the perpetual freshness of Moran's best Western watercolors. Despite its small size, Moran masterfully conveys the largess and rugged beauty of the mountainscape. He uses vibrant washes of greens and browns for the landscape in the foreground and pinks and purples to capture the sun-dappled mountains, contrasting these bold colors with the more muted tones of the distant snow covered peak. The cloudless sky is permeated by the distinct crystalline light of the place and the viewer can feel the crispness of the dry air.

Nancy K. Anderson writes of the importance of watercolors such as In the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming, "Open and candid regarding his lack of interest in topographical views, Moran was never just a reporter. Even the field studies he gathered as raw material for studio paintings betray his self-stated interest in making pictures not documents. Despite the enormous size of his most famous works, Moran may have been at his best in the small watercolor sketches he produced in the field." (N.K. Anderson, et al., Thomas Moran, New Haven, Connecticut, 1997, p. 165) In the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming possesses all the qualities of Moran's best works on paper and demonstrates the artist's mastery of light, color and composition as well as his ability to capture the spirit and essence of the Western landscape.

According to Carol Clark, Moran gave In the Big Horn Mountains, Wyoming as a gift to George Cammann, whose ranch he had visited while in the Big Horn mountains and as of 1981, the watercolor remained in the family.

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

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