Thomas Moran 
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The English-born Thomas Moran is best known for his oils and watercolors of the dramatic terrain of the American West. His most successful pictures, of the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone, were instrumental in raising popular awareness of the exotic beauty of these locales, leading ultimately the formation of the first National Parks. Among the most celebrated of 19th century painters, Moran was at least partially motivated by his ambition to upstage his rival Albert Bierstadt in his creation of the Yellowstone pictures. In his legacy of wilderness preservation— including a mountain which bears his name, an oil hanging in the Oval Office – and a strong and growing interest in his pictures, he certainly attained that level of success in his lifetime and since.

Born to mill workers in the gritty industrial town of Bolton, England, and emigrating to the Philadelphia area with his family in 1844, Thomas Moran followed his older brother Edward’s lead toward the profession of artist. Finding inspiration in J.M.W. Turner and the writings of John Ruskin, Moran was committed at an early age to the careful observation of nature. By the 1860s, he was regularly exhibiting at the Pennsylvania Academy, as well as considerable illustration work and engravings. In 1870, Richard Watson Gilder, managing editor of Scribner’s Monthly, commissioned Moran to improve the field sketches of an amateur draftsman from the west. The young artist sensed an opening, and the following year he would join an expedition that would make his career.