Moran’s ‘American West’ Makes Its Way Home


In 1871, the great landscape painter Thomas Moran joined the adventurous Hayden Expedition to Wyoming — his iconic imagery of the American West later proving essential to convince the United States Congress to establish Yellowstone as a national park.

Seven decades later, a substantial portion of the artist’s possessions, including watercolors and a sketchbook, were gifted to Yellowstone National Park in the 1940s. This summer, they are returning to the East End as part of the new exhibition, “Thomas Moran Discovers the American West,” on view from Saturday, June 29, through November 9 at the Thomas & Mary Nimmo Moran Studio, located at 229 Main Street in East Hampton.

“The exhibition traces Thomas Moran’s empowerment as an artist as he explored the American West on a trajectory to become one of the leaders of both the National Parks movement, and a small group of artists who promote America’s pride in its landscape and natural wonders,” according to a press release.

The collection — also comprised of oil paintings and even the pistol Moran used to shoot a rattlesnake — form the core of what will be an illustrated story, chronicling how Moran inspired Americans to appreciate the natural treasures around them, to this day.

Rare loans from the National Park Service will supplement the exhibit, including period maps, stereographic cards, wood engravings, photographs and late 19th-century publications that help tell Moran’s story. On display at the renovated Moran Studio, the charming, turreted Queen Anne is a local gem, registered as a National Historic Landmark and, most recently, the newest member of The Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios Program of The National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The significance of the Morans and their role locally and nationally is of great importance to the world of art,” according to Maria Vann, executive director of the East Hampton Historical Society, “but in a broader sense because of Thomas Moran’s role in the founding of our National Parks.”

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