THOMAS MORAN (1837-1926)
THOMAS MORAN (1837-1926)
THOMAS MORAN (1837-1926)
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THOMAS MORAN (1837-1926)
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THOMAS MORAN (1837-1926)

The Castle Rock, Green River, Wyoming (Indian Summer. Green River. Wyoming)

THOMAS MORAN (1837-1926)
The Castle Rock, Green River, Wyoming (Indian Summer. Green River. Wyoming)
signed with initials in monogram and dated 'TMoran. 1913.' with artist's thumbprint device (lower left)
oil on canvas
25 x 30 in. (63.5 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1913.
Lorena V. Montgomery, Santa Barbara, California.
David Strathearn, by descent.
Rosenstock Arts, Denver, Colorado.
David DeFrancesca, Honolulu, Hawaii, acquired from the above.
Edward Gaylord, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, acquired from the above.
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2001.
Private collection, Colorado, acquired from the above.
Scottsdale Art Auction, Scottsdale, Arizona, 2 April 2011, lot 234, sold by the above.
Acquired by the late owner from the above.
J.B. Wilson, The Significance of Thomas Moran as an American Landscape Painter, Ph.D dissertation, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 1955, p. 114, no. 74 (as Castle Rock, Green River).
D. Patrick, The Iconographical Significance in Selected Western Subjects Painted by Thomas Moran, Ph.D dissertation, North Texas State University, Denton, Texas, 1978, p. 165, no. 75 (as Castle Rock, Green River).
New York, National Academy of Design, Winter Exhibition, December 19, 1914-January 17, 1915, no. 117.
Denver, Colorado, Denver Art Museum, on loan, 2006-2008.
Further details
This work will be included in Phyllis Braff’s, Stephen Good’s and Melissa Webster Speidel’s forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

In the second half of the nineteenth century, stories and images from the distant, and still relatively wild, American West captivated the public’s imagination. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic poem, Song of Hiawatha, published in 1855 had much the same effect that James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans engendered in the previous generation. The Union Pacific Railroad first steamed into Green River, Wyoming territory in July 1868. Prior to this point, adventurers had to follow the treacherous Oregon Trail to get to this tributary of the Colorado River, which kept the area's population to a minimum. The arrival of the railroad, however, began a speculators’ rush, resulting in the creation and subsequent boom of Green River City. Nancy Anderson explains, “With the advent of the railroad the Green River landscape became quite literally a commodity available for purchase.’” (“The Kiss of Enterprise: The Western Landscape as Symbol and Resource,” in Reading American Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 1998, p. 214)

Among the travelers taking advantage of the Union Pacific, Thomas Moran first travelled to the West in 1871, arriving in Green River City via rail on his way to join Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden and his surveying expedition of Yellowstone, Wyoming Territory. Upon disembarking from the train, Moran was greeted by an unexpectedly grand panorama and was immediately in awe of its natural beauty. He stayed briefly in Green River City before setting off for Yellowstone, but not before making several small-scale field sketches with assiduous notations. Indeed, Moran’s First Sketch Made in the West at Green River, Wyoming (1871, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma) captures the river, its towering cliffs and their reflection, and he would adapt such quick onsite depictions into larger-scale works back in his New York studio.

The Green River became one of the artist’s favorite Western subjects, one that became quintessentially his, and inspired some of the most majestic and iconic images in the visual history of the American West, including the present work, The Castle Rock, Green River, Wyoming (Indian Summer. Green River. Wyoming). Nancy Anderson explains, "Unlike Yellowstone, the landscape of Green River had not been 'previewed' for eastern viewers through illustrations published in Scribner's. The multicolored, castellated buttes were an entirely fresh subject for paintings. Moran made the most of this opportunity, claiming the landscape as his own through a series of paintings completed over a period of forty years." (Thomas Moran, Washington, D.C., 1997, p. 49) Today Moran’s Green River images are considered cornerstones of his output, with examples located in the White House Historical Association, Washington, D.C.; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas and the Tacoma Art Museum, Washington.

As in Moran’s best paintings of the subject, The Castle Rock, Green River, Wyoming (Indian Summer. Green River. Wyoming) spectacularly captures the domineering silhouette of the most prominent formation within the area’s geological formations. In soft tones of yellow and orange, Moran skillfully depicts the textures in the scene, using a variegated paint surface to convey the butte’s rough sandstone façade. Contrasting the warm landforms, the sky is a bright, crystalline blue, and acts as a backdrop that further highlights the cliffs’ majesty. At the base of the orange and violet cliffs, rich and deep greens of foliage ground the composition. Together with the cliffs in the distance, the river leads the viewer through the landscape.

Moran's treatment of light, color and atmosphere in The The Castle Rock, Green River, Wyoming (Indian Summer. Green River. Wyoming) manifests the influence of British Romantic painter Joseph Mallord William Turner. Moran had long studied black and white reproductions of Turner's paintings before traveling to Europe in 1861 where he studied the master's work in person. Like Turner, Moran also drew inspiration from the landscape, yet frequently altered the actual scene in order to capture the character of the vision rather than accurately transcribe it. Moran alleged, "I place no value upon literal transcripts from nature. My general scope is not realistic; all my tendencies are toward idealization. Of course, all art must come through nature or naturalism, but I believe that a place, as a place, had no value in itself for the artist only so far as it furnishes the material from which to construct a picture." (as quoted in L. Nelson, "The Oil Paintings of Thomas Moran" in Thomas Moran, 1837-1926, exhibition catalogue, Riverside, California, 1963, p. 18)

Moran’s artistic editing enhances the potency of the present work’s composition— captivating the audience with the West’s natural majesty. In reality, the Green River City in 1871 was burgeoning with people and industry, and the landscape was becoming scarred by train tracks, buildings and bridges. Moran, however, chose to exclude these elements from The Castle Rock, Green River, Wyoming (Indian Summer. Green River. Wyoming) and limit human presence to only a small group of explorers at lower right. The figures both indicate the monumental scale of the majestic landforms and imbue the work with the romantic nostalgia of the untamed New World. Anderson writes, “For Moran, neither the railroad nor the burgeoning town that had sprung to life beside the railroad tracks threatened the vast and awesome grandeur of the landscape, for in his art he was free to edit and invent, preserving on canvas the mythic landscape endowed by history with symbolic as well as economic value.” (“The Kiss of Enterprise: The Western Landscape as Symbol and Resource,” in Reading American Art, New Haven, Connecticut, 1998, p. 215) Moran’s depictions of Green River, regardless of scale, were always of a pristine, magisterial wilderness imbued with the spirit of adventure and dreams of destiny as yet unfulfilled.

Including The Castle Rock, Green River, Wyoming (Indian Summer. Green River. Wyoming), Moran’s iconic canvases of the region were and remain so appealing because they spoke to and aroused the viewer's romantic conceptions of the West. "The compositional formula he devised for views of Green River fed the lingering hunger for spectacular New World landscapes, which would surpass that for views of Europe, and at the same time tapped an increasingly nostalgic view of American Indian life fanned by the relentless popularity of works like Hiawatha. Moran's Green River images proved so popular, spoke, in other words, so clearly to a romantic and already nostalgic impression of the West, that the artist continued to sell variations on the theme well into the twentieth century." (N.K. Anderson, Thomas Moran, p. 50) Paintings such as The Castle Rock, Green River, Wyoming (Indian Summer. Green River. Wyoming)conveyed the grandeur of the region to the American public, capturing their imagination and largely influencing their conception of the West. Today they are masterful works that capture a dynamic moment in the nation's expansion and a potent vision of a then distant region.

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