Lot 46
  • 46

Thomas Moran 1837 - 1926

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
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  • Thomas Moran
  • Grand Canyon in Mist
  • signed with the artist's monogrammed signature TMoran and dated 1915 (lower left); also bears the artist's thumbprint (lower right)
  • oil on panel
  • 13 3/4 by 20 1/8 inches
  • (34.9 by 51.1 cm)


Grand Central Art Galleries, New York, 1917
Governor Ernest Whitworth Marland, Oklahoma (acquired from the above)
McCaughen & Burr, St. Louis, Missouri
Bruce Wear, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico
Private Collection, Miami, Florida, 1985 (acquired from the above)
Middendorf Gallery, Washington, D.C.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1987


Denver, Colorado, Denver Museum of Natural History, Grand Canyon Perspectives, March-May 1985


Classic Western American Paintings, The Gerald Peters Collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1979, illustrated in color pl. 8


This work is in very good condition. The panel support is slightly bowed. Under UV: there are a few very small retouches in the sky and a 3-inch thin diagonal line at the upper left corner.
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

Grand Canyon in Mist exemplifies Thomas Moran's vast panoramas of the American West and the visionary approach to landscape painting for which he became famous. The artist's first western landscapes, romantic and ideal renderings of unspoiled wilderness, introduced the American public to their natural heritage at a time when expansionism and exploration garnered intense enthusiasm. The ever-changing light and weather of the West coupled with the dynamic landscape of deep canyons studded with mesas and fantastic rock formations, appealed to the artist’s concern for color, atmospheric effects and his desire to convey an impression of a place rather than a precise rendering of a specific site. Moran made his first trip west in 1871 when he accepted an invitation to join geologist Dr. Ferdinand Hayden and his exploration party as the artist of record (Fig. 1). This trip resulted in Moran's first large-scale painting of the West, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, 1872 (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.), which he painted in the studio from sketches, color notes and his keen memory. In 1873, Moran accompanied Major John Wesley Powell to Utah and the north rim of the Grand Canyon in Colorado. From this expedition he painted The Chasm of the Colorado, 1873-74 (Fig. 2) as a companion piece to the 1872 Yellowstone view. By 1874, the United States Congress had purchased both pictures. The Grand Canyon proved to be a continual source of inspiration for Moran, and he returned to the area and painted the site repeatedly over the next forty years.

Painted in 1915, Grand Canyon in Mist is a mature example of Moran’s celebrated subject. His virtuosity as a landscape painter reveals itself in the natural forms of the mist shrouded canyon and the atmospheric turbulence which animates the sky. The fir trees and brush give a sense of scale to the composition, while the view beyond encompasses a seemingly limitless landscape. Through his subtle blending of color, Moran creates a maze of canyon walls pierced by low lying mist and deep ravines. While the Colorado River is not evident in the composition, the great chasm in the center suggests its presence. Moran’s exploration of changing weather conditions allowed him to indulge his romantic sense of color. Alternating between light and shadow, the orange, blue and purple canyon walls in the present work reveal their extraordinary contours. By 1915, the Grand Canyon had become a popular tourist attraction, however, in Grand Canyon in Mist Moran presents the landscape in its untouched state, thereby allowing it to serve as an eloquent expression of his particular form of romantic idealism.

Moran’s interest in the West extended beyond his desire to depict it and he was a staunch supporter of the creation of the National Park Service. In fact, sketches from his original 1871 expedition were presented to Congress as part of an 1872 bill to designate the Yellowstone area as the first United States national park. Fiercely nationalistic, he regarded the West as a sublime environment that should be recognized by his fellow artists. Moran writes, “My chief desire is to call the attention of American landscape painters to the unlimited field for the exercise of their talents to be found in this enchanting southwestern country; a country flooded with color and picturesqueness, offering everything to inspire the artist and stimulate him to the production of works of lasting interest and value. This Grand Canyon of Arizona and all the country surrounding it, offers a new and comparatively untrodden field for pictorial interpretation, and only awaits the men of original thoughts and ideas to prove to their countrymen that we possess a land of beauty and grandeur with which no other can compare” (The Grand Canyon of Arizona, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1909, p. 87).