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The Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran Collection at Gilcrease Museum


The Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran Collection at Gilcrease Museum

Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, holds one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of the work of Thomas Moran and his wife, Mary Nimmo Moran, two of the most significant American artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although Thomas Moran became famous for his portrayals of the American West, he created images depicting all regions of the United States as well as Mexico and Europe. The collection reveals many aspects of the working methods, interests, and activities of these artists and provides important opportunities to explore a broad range of issues evoked both by their art and by their engagement with the world during a transformative period in our nation’s history.  

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See all items in the online Thomas Moran collection
See all items in the online Mary Nimmo Moran collection

Thomas Moran

The impact of Thomas Moran (1837–1926) on our understanding of landscape and its uses is profound. He traveled and painted widely, most famously throughout the West in the years following the Civil War, and his art was influential in making those places a cherished part of the nation’s cultural identity. He is especially known for his monumental canvases of Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and other iconic areas of the region, but his career was far-ranging, taking him to Mexico and Europe (especially Britain, France, and Italy), as well as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Florida, New York, and California’s Pacific coast. He was an active illustrator of books and periodicals and enthusiastic about arranging for reproductions of his paintings using the latest technologies. Extraordinarily prolific, he created thousands of images in different media over a seventy-year career. The entire scope of his life and work is represented at Gilcrease Museum, from early studies to his last paintings, all reinforced by rich contextual archives.

See all items in the online Thomas Moran collection

Mary Nimmo Moran

Mary Nimmo Moran (1842–1899) owed much to her husband’s tutelage and encouragement, and though her art is more limited in number, media, and geographic range than his, she was a significant artist in her own right, especially as a printmaker in the 1880s and 1890s, during the etching revival. Primary caregiver for the couple’s three children—Paul Nimmo (1864–1907), Mary Scott (1867–1955), and Ruth Bedford (1870–1948)—and a major source of support for her husband’s career, she nevertheless managed to create a remarkable amount of art that was heralded in her own time and has received renewed attention in recent years.

See all items in the online Mary Nimmo Moran collection

Read about 90 artworks

The Gilcrease’s research scholar for the Moran collection Sandra Pauly; project advisor, art historian, and Moran scholar Professor Joni Kinsey of the University of Iowa; and the Gilcrease’s senior curator Laura Fry chose these 90 objects to represent various aspects of the couple’s individual careers, their collaborative efforts, and their work in a variety of mediums.

Browse 90 artworks with essays

Moran Archive Manuscript Collection

The Moran Papers comprise handwritten and typewritten primary sources as well as typed transcriptions of these sources. The collection includes correspondence, account books, published and unpublished manuscripts, autobiographical and biographical sketches, miscellaneous notes, published and unpublished articles, drafts of articles and manuscripts, diaries, newspaper and periodical clippings, photographs, pamphlets, and inventories of paintings and etchings, all related to the life and career of the artist Thomas Moran.

Browse the manuscript collection

Explore Ideas

Browse: Thomas Moran: Before the West, An Artist in Training

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Browse: Mary Nimmo Moran: Wife, Mother, Homemaker, Hostess, and Artist

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Browse Thomas Moran and Mary Nimmo Moran: Partners in Art

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Browse: Thomas Moran: Beyond the West

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Browse: Mary Nimmo Moran: A Woman Artist in the Nineteenth Century

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Browse: Thomas Moran: The West and the Business of Art

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The Family Moran

The art produced by Thomas Moran and Mary Nimmo Moran, and that of Moran’s siblings, influenced public perception of the American landscape at a time of rapid industrialization and urbanization in the United States, especially in the northeast. They were, however, supplying art to meet the demands of an Anglo-American art world on the East Coast. That art world favored the construction of a national identity that was nostalgic for its agrarian past and eager for new vistas to explore and occupy—an artistic vision the Moran family could supply. In this essay, Sandra Pauly discusses the extended Moran family and its involvement in the art world. 

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The Moran Collection at Gilcrease: Opportunities for New Understandings

Moran scholar Joni L. Kinsey provides background on the Moran collection and looks forward to potential areas for further scholarly inquiry. 

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Discover More

The grant from the Henry Luce Foundation enabled Gilcrease Museum to research, conserve, and digitize its collection of works by famed American landscape artist Thomas Moran, as well as works by his wife, Mary Nimmo Moran, herself a talented artist and printmaker. The combined collection of prints, sketches, watercolors and archival material, such as letters and catalogs of works, number more than 2,300 items. Many have rarely been put on display at the museum or loaned to other institutions. 

The first goal of the project was to provide the public and scholars with access to the Moran collection in its entirety. Museum staff photographed all the objects—paintings, prints, sketches, notebooks, photographs, personal letters, and unfinished manuscripts—and those images are now available online. As the bulk of the collection comprises works on paper, which are often fragile and seldom seen by the public, the digitization of these objects was vital to the overall project. In addition to the images online, we have provided documentation of the size, medium, date, inscriptions, signatures, and titles for all objects. Staff also updated the artwork titles to reflect correct and current spelling. 

The digitization and documentation of the Moran collection provided a foundation for the project. Sandra Pauly, Gilcrease’s curatorial scholar for Moran collection research, chose 90 objects to represent various aspects of the Morans’ individual careers, their collaborative efforts, and their work in a variety of mediums. She wrote brief texts to accompany these 90 objects, providing deeper contextual information. Each object text is self-contained, and you can read them in any order. If you would like to review the dozens of object texts in a more systematic manner, however, Pauly also explores the Morans’ work through six thematic essays.

Project adviser Joni Kinsey’s essay, “The Moran Collection at Gilcrease: Opportunities for New Understandings,” provides background on the collection and looks forward to potential areas for further scholarly inquiry. 

The Moran collection at Gilcrease is important for understanding the history of our national engagement with the land. Moreover, the work of the husband-and-wife team of Thomas Moran and Mary Nimmo Moran creates an opportunity to examine the changing role of women in the United States. Future exhibitions of the work of the Morans can support the museum’s core ideas of presenting the United States as a nation that continues to evolve. 

—Sandra Pauly, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Moran Collection Research, 2022 


                                            Gilcrease Museum thanks the Henry Luce Foundation for making this project possible:

Henry Luce Foundation

The Henry Luce Foundation seeks to enrich public discourse by promoting innovative scholarship, cultivating new leaders, and fostering international understanding. Established in 1936 by Henry R. Luce, the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Time, Inc., the Luce Foundation advances its mission through grantmaking and leadership programs in the fields of Asia, higher education, religion and theology, art, and public policy.

A leader in art funding since 1982, the Luce Foundation's American Art Program supports innovative museum projects nationwide that advance the role of visual arts of the United States in an open and equitable society, and the potential of museums to serve as forums for art-centered conversations that celebrate creativity, explore difference, and seek common ground. The Foundation aims to empower museums and arts organizations to reconsider accepted histories, foreground the voices and experiences of underrepresented artists and cultures, and welcome diverse collaborators and communities into dialogue. 

Sandra Pauly received her MA in art history from the University of Georgia with a thesis on the Long Island landscapes of Thomas Moran and Mary Nimmo Moran. She then entered the university’s PhD program, writing her dissertation on the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair. She was a curatorial intern at the Saint Louis Art Museum, had a curatorial fellowship at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, worked as an assistant registrar at the Georgia Museum of Art, and taught art history at the University of Georgia and Georgia State University.

Joni L. Kinsey received her PhD from Washington University in St. Louis in 1989 and joined the University of Iowa faculty in 1991. Her research specialties include nineteenth-century landscape painting and art of the American West and Midwest, but her interests range from nineteenth-century popular prints to the rise of women artists in the central U.S. She has written two books on Moran: Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West (Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992) and Thomas Moran’s West: Chromolithography, High Art, and Popular Taste (University Press of Kansas, 2006). In 2014 Professor Kinsey was a Fulbright Fellow in the United Kingdom. She has written numerous articles and book chapters and she lectures frequently. 

For collection inquires or to contribute new information about items in the art collection, please contact Laura Fry, Gilcrease Museum Senior Curator and Curator of Art, at

Henry Luce Foundation