Lot 63
  • 63

Thomas Moran 1837 - 1926

500,000 - 700,000 USD
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  • Thomas Moran
  • Coconino Pines and Cliff, Arizona
  • signed with the artist's monogrammed signature TMoran, N.A. and dated 1902, l.l.
  • oil on canvas
  • 20 by 30 in.
  • (50.8 by 76.2 cm)


Albert Gallatin, Long Island, New York, circa 1905
James Gallatin, New York (by descent in the family)
Private Collection, Colorado, by 1989
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1996


New York, Newhouse Galleries, Inc., Thomas Moran, N.A. Centennial Exhibition, January 1937


Very good condition, lined; under UV: very fine lines of retouching to address craquelure in sky, a few other minor retouches, otherwise fine.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

By the time Thomas Moran painted Coconino Pines and Cliffs in 1902, he had visited the canyons of Arizona many times and had an intimate knowledge of their rocky contours. His first visit to the region in 1873 followed his successful expedition to Yosemite, where his paintings helped establish the area as the nation's first national park. After that landmark trip, he accompanied explorer and geological surveyor John Wesley Powell down the Colorado River as they made their way through Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, eventually arriving at the Grand Canyon. Moran continued to travel throughout the West over the next decade, visiting the mountains of Wyoming and California, but did not return to the Grand Canyon until 1892, when the Santa Fe Railroad subsidized his travel in exchange for the copyright to a painting for use in promotional materials. By 1896 the Santa Fe Railroad had placed William H. Simpson, a self-proclaimed "poet who loved pictures," in charge of their newly created advertising department. Simpson made it his practice to bring more artists west than ever to paint the western scenery, recognizing the advantage promoting the grand vistas only accessible through train travel.

Simpson invited Moran to Arizona again in 1901, presumably to commemorate the newly completed spur between the town of Williams, just outside Flagstaff, and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. This may have been the beginning of Moran's long term agreement with the Santa Fe railroad, as he returned almost every winter until his death in 1926. In exchange for rail passes and hotel accommodations, he produced paintings of the canyon that were used as promotional tools in hotels, offices, and railroad cars. Additional images were distributed on calendars, in guidebooks and brochures, and even on stationary. He eventually became so closely identified with the canyon that the railroad simply used his picture in their advertisements.

Moran painted Coconino Pines and Cliff during a period of prolific output, as he threw himself into his work following the death of his wife and two of his brothers between 1900-1901. The 1901 trip to the Grand Canyon, allowed him to take long excursions through the nearby pines of Coconino, perhaps providing solace for his loss. He wrote of the area, "Its forests of cedar and pine interspersed with aspens and dwarfish oaks are weird in the extreme; its tremendous architecture fills one with wonder and admiration, and its color, forms and atmosphere are so ravishingly beautiful that, however well traveled one may be, a new world is opened to him when he gazes into the Grand Canyon of Arizona" (Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountain, 1998, p. 290).

Moran had become so intimately acquainted with the landscape that his sketches during these trips were mere pencil suggestions of rock forms, with no color notes whatsoever, a testament to his confidence in his ability to utilize his memory and imagination to re-create the landscape in his studio paintings. By arranging the rocks, cliffs, and towering trees to create the desired aesthetic effect, he erased any sign of tourism that had encroached on the landscape - omitting train tracks, roads, and buildings - allowing the viewer to experience the landscape as if they were the first to lay their eyes on the pristine beauty of the scene.