Untitled Document

Artist Biography

References:

Theodore Stebbins, The Lure of Italy: American Artists and the Italian Experience (New York: Abrams, 1992)

Julian Halsby, Venice: The Artist’s Vision (Chicago: Trafalgar Square, 1992)

Gail Davidson, et al, Frederic Church, Winslow Homer and Thomas Moran: Tourism and the American Landscape (Boston: Bulfinch, 2006)


Thomas Moran was born in Lancashire, England, and immigrated to Philadelphia in 1844. His first training began as a wood engraver’s apprentice; he then learned about marine and historical painting while sharing a studio with his brother. He was taught by James Hamilton—“the American Turner”—who instilled in him a love for that English painter’s lyrical, majestic style. This admiration motivated his trips to Venice in 1886 and 1890, where, as Turner had, he found a wealth of material and inspiration. The numerous sketches he made during his 1890 visit provided him with subjects to paint for the rest of his life. Moran became known for his paintings of the American West, but the number of Venetian views exceeded that of any other type of work, including the landscapes of Yosemite and the Rockies.

The View of Venice was one of the works Moran painted after his 1890 trip; it captures the daily din and tumultuous color of tourists boarding boats in the Lido, against the iconic backdrop of Santa Maria della Salute, and San Marco’s Cathedral and Campanile. Turner-esque light and hues give both the sky and water shimmering effects, and the whole work has an enchanting feel. It calls to mind the Grand Tour, where American and English students of both art and life journeyed to Europe—particularly Italy—in order to see the sights, and gain perspective from the cultural landmarks of Western civilization.

Moran shows us the Grand Tour at the turn of the twentieth century, but (with different boats) it is not difficult to imagine a similar scene taking place in Venice today.

Moran gained notoriety as a travel-painter, bringing back scenes and vistas from faraway places to audiences in the Northeast. He sought to create wonder and mysticism, and as such was not strictly concerned with verisimilitude. His depictions were real, but not exact. Therefore Moran was not only painting the place, but the imagined place: something that would be recognizable and have appeal for people who could never visit the real thing. He was a skilled draftsman, owing no doubt to his days as an engraver, but he was also a passionate artist with the ability to create magic; the combination of which made him a master.

In 1872 Moran moved to New York City, where he was involved with the National Academy of Design, the New York Etching Club, and the American Watercolor Society. Though he died in Santa Barbara, he was buried in his beloved East Hampton, NY, where he had been reminded of the English countryside. Moran’s works were continuously exhibited and sold throughout his lifetime, and his popularity continues today as he remains one of America’s greatest landscape painters.

Examples of Moran’s work can be found in major public collections throughout the United States, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; the M. H. de Young Museum, San Francisco; and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.