Lot 50
  • 50

Thomas Moran

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Thomas Moran
  • A Showery Day, Grand Canyon
  • signed T.MORAN. with the artist's thumbprint and dated 1919./© (lower right); also titled, signed and dated A Showery day/Grand Canyon/Ariz./T.Moran/1919 (on the stretcher)
  • oil on canvas
  • 25 by 20 inches
  • (63.5 by 50.8 cm)


Dr. and Mrs. Louis A. Dreyfus, New York
The Rev. Dr. Carl and Mrs. Eleanor Koehler Sutter, Staten Island, New York, 1943
Estate of the above (sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 27, 1999, lot 45)
Acquired by the present owner at the above sale

Catalogue Note

Thomas Moran first visited the Grand Canyon in 1873 and discovered a landscape ideally suited to his romantic vision of the American West. He returned there repeatedly throughout his career and painted the canyon’s fascinating vistas until the end of his life (Fig. 1). His daughter Ruth wrote: “To him it was all grandeur, beauty, color and light–nothing of man at all but nature, virgin, unspoiled and lovely” (as quoted in Carol Clark, Thomas Moran: Watercolors of the American West, Fort Worth, Texas, 1989, p. 21). Painted in 1919, A Showery Day, Grand Canyon is a mature example of Moran’s most celebrated subject. His virtuosity as a landscape painter reveals itself in the natural forms of the mist shrouded canyon and the atmospheric turbulence that animates the sky. The fir trees and boulders in the foreground 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. His exploration of changing weather conditions allowed him to indulge his romantic sense of color. Alternating between light and shadow, the peach, purple and beige canyon walls in the present work reveal their extraordinary contours. By 1919, the Grand Canyon had become a popular tourist attraction, however, A Showery Day, Grand Canyon Moran presents the landscape in its untouched state, thereby allowing it to serve as an eloquent expression of romantic idealism.

The artist made his first trip to the American West in 1871 when he accepted an invitation to join geologist Dr. Ferdinand Hayden and his exploration party to record their travels. This trip resulted in Moran's first large-scale painting of the West, The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone of 1872, which he painted in his studio from the sketches and color notes he made on site. 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, a companion piece to the 1872 Yellowstone view. By 1874, the United States Congress had purchased both pictures.

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. Like his contemporary Albert Bierstadt, who also presented an idealized interpretation of the American landscape in his work, Moran was fiercely nationalistic and regarded the West as a sublime environment that should be recognized and preserved (Fig. 2). He wrote in 1909 that his, “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).

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