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Date posted:  June 14, 2022

The Moran collection at Gilcrease Museum is a rich array of objects and records that comprises the largest single repository of the work of Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran, two of the most significant American artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.[1] Remarkable for its depth and comprehensiveness, the collection reveals many aspects of the working methods, interests, and activities of these distinctive 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.

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.

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.[2]

Origins of the Gilcrease Moran Collection

Financed by the fortune he amassed in Oklahoma’s oil boom of the early twentieth century, Thomas Gilcrease (1890–1962) began collecting Euro-American and Native American art and artifacts, historical documents, and other archival materials as early as the 1910s, but his first acquisition of the Morans’ work was not until 1947, when he purchased the “Blackmore Watercolors,” a set of sixteen exquisite Yellowstone paintings that Thomas Moran created for the British industrialist William Blackmore (1827–1878) in the early 1870s.[3] In 1948 Gilcrease made a landmark addition to his holdings by purchasing all that remained in the Morans’ studio after their daughter Ruth’s death. Fifty other paintings and prints by Thomas were acquired after 1948, both before and after Thomas Gilcrease’s death.[4]

The collection is dominated by Thomas’s work, with more than one hundred of his watercolors, several dozen oil paintings—including his last “Big Pictures,” Specters from the North (1890) and Shoshone Falls on the Snake River (1900)—over nearly one thousand sketches and drawings, a selection of photographs the artist used for visual reference, hundreds of original prints and published illustrations, and many archival materials, including ledger books listing artworks and their sales during his lifetime.[5] No less significant are nearly three hundred prints by Mary Nimmo Moran, a sketchbook, several of her etching plates, one of her oil paintings (recently acquired), and photographs and other materials that document the family’s activities over many decades.

The Moran collection at Gilcrease Museum has provided the foundation for numerous exhibitions and publications over the years, but although scholarship on the couple’s work has developed significantly in recent decades, many aspects of their work remain understudied.[6] The expansiveness of the Morans’ careers and their wide cultural connections, both with people and issues, make the Gilcrease collection a rich resource for understanding a vast range of topics in art, history, and culture.

Avenues for New Insights in the Gilcrease Moran Collection

Early Artistic Development and Working Methods

Thurman Wilkins’s excellent biography of Thomas Moran and longtime Gilcrease curator Anne Morand’s master’s thesis are important studies about the artist’s early life and career, and the Gilcrease collection contains many sources for expanding upon this foundational scholarship in new ways.[7] Many early drawings, for example, document Thomas’s excursions in and around Pennsylvania (for example, Bridge over the Schuylkill, Philadelphia and Hemlock Root, Vandermark and his awareness of artistic theories of the time, such as the English critic John Ruskin’s dictates about studying from nature. References to his relationship with many artists, including his older brothers John (1831–1902) and Edward (1929–1901), appear in various papers in the collection.[8] Prints that Thomas collected by other artists and his copies from some of their work offer revealing glimpses into art educational practices as well as Moran’s aesthetic taste, and his autobiographical notes indicate far-reaching literary interests.[8] His apprenticeship at Scattergood and Telfer engraving firm and early contact with publishers in the 1850s reveal his growing awareness of the era’s burgeoning printing industry and the opportunities it offered artists. In addition, his frequent use of photographs as references and his relationship to photographers (beginning with his brother John and extending to many others) are intriguing issues and have important sources at Gilcrease.[10] The extended Moran family’s artistic work is voluminous,[11] and their connections to the Sartain family in Philadelphia, and especially Thomas’s relationship with reproductive printmaker John Sartain (1808–1897), are significant and understudied, as are many other aspects of the Morans’ engagement with the Philadelphia art world.[12] In another genre of Thomas’s early career, works such as Gilcrease’s Columbus Approaching San Salvador (1860) offer opportunities to explore his interest in “historiated landscapes,” especially in regard to recent reassessments of historical narratives and their legacies.[13] 

Gender and the Morans’ Art

The Gilcrease collection includes many materials relating to the artistic relationship of Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran that provide glimpses into gender issues in late nineteenth-century American art. Her introduction to the art world began as the couple became acquainted in the late 1850s, when he was beginning to develop connections in the Philadelphia artistic community and to exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Documentation of Mary’s development is sparse, but she later wrote, “from him came all my first impressions of art and of nature as applied to art; up to that time I had never thought of using the brush or pencil.”[14] Thomas sometimes also taught art to women outside the home, including lectures and a course at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (PSDW) in 1865, an institution for which he made twenty-four “studies.”[15] His mentor John Sartain argued that “the progress of man required the emancipation of women,” and his support for the PSDW may have influenced Thomas’s work there.[16] Because the couple’s son Paul was still a baby in 1865, it is unlikely that Mary attended classes, but this experience and similar courses taught by Thomas demonstrate his support for women’s art education.[17]

A letter Thomas wrote from the West in 1873 suggests that Mary Nimmo sometimes collaborated in her husband’s art. “Work hard to improve your drawing dear,” he said, “as I shall have plenty of work for you this coming winter. 70 drawings for Powell, 40 for Appleton, 4 for Aldine, 20 for Scribners all from this region beside water colors and oil pictures.”[18] Exactly how Mary contributed to her husband’s images remains unclear, but the sheer number of works he produced over his career suggests he had assistance and that her own talents benefited from her involvement.[19] By the 1880s Mary’s etchings had begun receiving attention in both the U.S. and Britain, and her work—and their partnership—was increasingly mentioned in published reviews. As The Cosmopolitan reported in 1889, “Thomas Moran, the etcher, and Mary Nimmo, his wife, work side by side down in their studio on Twenty-second Street.”[20]

The Morans’ imagery sometimes depicts the same subjects, especially in their views of Florida, where they began wintering in the 1880s, and of East Hampton, where they summered and established a home and studio in 1884. They also occasionally copied each other’s work. Mary’s etching Interior of a California Forest (1888), for example, was published with the phrase “from [an] original sketch by Thomas Moran,” and after Mary’s death, perhaps as a memorial to her and their recently deceased son Paul, Thomas copied her etching Tween the Gloaming and the Mirk” (1883) in an oil painting, The Old Bridge at Hook Pond (1907, High Museum of Art).[21] Many images that demonstrate the Morans’ artistic connections are in the Gilcrease collection (see, for example, Thomas’s Bridge and Trees and Mary’s Bridge over the Bushkill, Easton, Pa.), but the interrelationship of their work remains little studied. 

The Importance of Travel

The Gilcrease collection is replete with materials relating to the wide-ranging travel that provided the Morans with diverse subjects and interests. Thomas’s field sketches and many related documents chart his and Mary’s movements, and his work was often commissioned by railroad and tourist companies or published in articles and books relating to travel. While the Morans relied on travel for their art, their art in turn promoted it, inspiring audiences to imagine and sometimes venture to new locales.[22]

Thomas’s 1860 visit to the Pictured Rocks of Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with fellow artist Virgil Williams (1830–1886) was his first significant trip as an artist, and a large group of images at Gilcrease document his interest in the region and its ties to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha (1855).[23] Moran used the distinctive lakeshore scenery and its Native American associations in several illustrations and paintings, and in a series of ink and wash drawings that he hoped to publish, but these images and their connections to literary interests, an understanding of Native cultures, and the industrial development in the Great Lakes region have never been given the attention they deserve.[24]

Dozens of Thomas’s field sketches, and paintings and etchings by both Morans in the Gilcrease collection reveal Thomas’s lifelong passion for the work of English landscapist J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851) as well as the couple’s long and sustained relationship with Britain (see Thomas’s Pass at Glencoe, Scotland and Mary’s A Glimpse of Conwy).[25] Other drawings document the Morans’ first Grand Tour in 1866–67, when they lived for nearly a year in Paris and traveled extensively in Europe, meeting the French landscapist Camille Corot (1796–1875) and visiting the 1867 Paris Exposition Universelle, where Thomas exhibited two works. Although no drawings by Mary have been located from the European sojourn, it would have been a formative experience for her, especially in her awareness of the French Barbizon style, which many of her prints recall.[26]

Thomas Moran’s travel increased after 1870, especially (and often) to the American West, but also throughout the eastern U.S., as far south as Cuba and Mexico (in 1883), and several times to Britain and Venice.[27] Gilcrease has a great array of objects relating to these trips, including field sketches (such as Garden of the Gods), illustrations, prints, paintings (for example, Venetian Seaport, Veracruz) and archival materials. During this period he and Mary also began traveling more frequently together, visiting Florida[28] (in 1877, 1887, and 1891) and summering in East Hampton, Long Island. Their 1882 trip to Britain was especially important because they were both heralded there for their etchings, met the renowned English aesthetician John Ruskin, exhibited their work in several venues, and traveled extensively throughout England, Wales, and Scotland.[29] Venice, which Thomas first visited in 1886 and where he and Mary returned in 1890, is a richly documented destination with important connections to Turner’s art, but also to Gilded Age transatlantic culture.[30] These trips and their contexts deserve more critical attention, especially for the role of patronage, the logistics of travel for people and art, and the economic and cultural issues that made these places rewarding to visit.

The Morans in the Art World

Another subject well represented but seldom examined in the Gilcrease collection is the Morans’ relationship with the larger art world of their time. This rich topic reveals much about their status and engagement with the business of art, intellectual trends, and efforts to develop American culture in the Gilded Age.[31] The Morans’ work appeared in a wide array of venues, and they were involved with an astonishing number of art dealers, galleries, publishers, artists, writers, artistic societies, and clubs. Their studios, similar to William Merritt Chase’s lavish rooms in the Tenth Street Studio Building in New York, were filled with art and artifacts that displayed their aesthetic sophistication.[32] They exhibited in and attended many of the great fairs of their era, ranging from the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia to the 1915 Panama–Pacific Exposition in San Francisco.[33]

Beginning in the early 1860s with his 4-by-6 1/2-foot copy of Turner’s Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus (Warner Foundation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama), Thomas Moran painted his most significant subjects on monumental canvases.[34] His “Big Pictures” are his most noteworthy achievements and an indication of his status in the art world of his time, but only a few have received significant study.[35] Most familiar are The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1872; 7 by 12 feet) and its companion, The Chasm of the Colorado (1873–74; 7 by 12 feet), which were purchased by Congress for the United States Capitol, but these were followed by many other large works, including Mountain of the Holy Cross (1875; 5 by 7 feet), Ponce de León in Florida (1877–78; 5 1/2 by 9 1/2 feet), and a later and larger Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1893–94; 10 by 14 feet).[36] Gilcrease owns a small version of an 1893 Yellowstone view, Lower Falls, Yellowstone Park, as well as his last two large works, Specters from the North (1890; 8 1/2 by 12 feet) and Shoshone Falls on the Snake River (1900; 6 1/4 by 14 feet). These enormous canvases represent Moran’s most important attempts to visually portray the significance of the American landscape, and they need to be better understood in the context of that effort and for the ways they foreshadow monumental works of more recent times.

Another important aspect of the Morans’ art world was the proliferation of published images in the late nineteenth century, and both artists were active contributors to the industry.[37] Recent scholarship by Shannon Vittoria has unearthed new information about Mary Nimmo’s work for publication, revealing a little-known aspect of her art and situating her within an important profession for women artists at the time.[38] Thomas’s illustrations for books, magazines, and government reports, and the chromolithographs made from his art (most notably the lavish series published by Louis Prang in 1876) have been well documented, but his practice of selling copyrights of his paintings for reproduction as the photomechanical era of printing dawned deserves much more study.[39] In a different vein are his enigmatic “metamorphosis” images, landscapes he created by drawing and painting over newspaper and magazine images. These remarkably modern works are fascinating responses to the ubiquity of printed imagery but have never received much notice.[40]

Original prints (made entirely by the artist rather than being redrawn by others) were an important counterpoint to illustrative reproductions in the late nineteenth century, and Gilcrease is replete with such works by both Morans (see, for example, Thomas’s Harlech Castle – Wales and Mary’s A Florida Forest). Their printmaking careers have received considerable attention, but many aspects deserve additional inquiry.[41] Thomas’s interest, for example, in creating a lithographic series for a publication he called “Studies for Pictures” in 1869 and his plans for a Hiawatha publication in the mid-1870s are especially intriguing.[42] Mary Nimmo Moran’s etchings that situate architectural remnants amid new urban structures are important for their focus on industrial change, and her more pastoral imagery (such as Bridge over the Delaware, Easton, PA and Under the Oaks, Georgica Pond) also deserves further consideration. Especially important is the larger issue of the Morans’ role in the etching revival, a transatlantic movement of the 1860s–90s that sought to situate that print medium in modern art. They were members of etching societies in both America and England, had close contact with leading theorists and practitioners, and their prints were exhibited, published, and reviewed on both sides of the Atlantic.[43] Mary Nimmo’s status in this context is particularly significant because she was acknowledged, then as now, as an eminent etcher in her own right.

Thomas Moran made a comfortable living from his art, and even after grand romantic landscapes began to fall from favor his work continued to sell well.[44] The implications of his art’s resiliency amid the early twentieth century’s changing tastes is an important topic, and one represented at Gilcrease by some of the artist’s final paintings, including The Dream City (1919), California Landscape (1924), and Seascape (1924), which reveal the nearly ninety-year-old artist continuing to mine his memories and respond in new ways to contemporary trends and more abstract modes of visual representation.

New Interpretative Approaches

The Morans’ work is ripe for reevaluation, especially in regard to narratives of American history, tourism, industrialization and the environment, and the ways that issues such as race and class can more deeply inform our understanding of their world and our own.[45] Portrayals of industrial and urban sites by both artists (for example, Thomas’s Communipaw, N.J. and Mary’s Newark, N.J. from the Passaic, deserve additional attention for what they suggest about the complexities of the Morans’ art and their changing environment, and many elements of their natural landscapes merit more critical investigations.[46] Thomas Moran, for example, has long been heralded as the “Father of the National Parks” for the role of his art in establishing Yellowstone as the first of these official sites and for raising awareness of areas such as the Grand Canyon; however, his pioneering images of other regions with national status (such as Zion in Utah, the Grand Tetons and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, and many others) have never been fully acknowledged. Furthermore, environmental issues that range from aridity in the West to the diminishment of Shoshone Falls by a hydroelectric dam shortly after Moran painted it in 1900 are pervasive in his work. Interpreting his and Mary Nimmo’s imagery through an ecocritical lens demonstrates their relevance to both historical and contemporary concerns.[47]

Race and class are among the least-considered subjects in the Morans’ art, but both artists confronted these issues. Thomas interacted with Native Americans in his western travels, mentioned them in his writings, and frequently included them in his images, although usually as small figures dwarfed by their environment. In the Gilcrease collection, however, his Hiawatha scenes and images of the southwestern pueblos of Walpi, Acoma, San Juan, and Laguna, as well as other works, indicate a more concerted interest in Indigenous people. He also interacted with a number of notable individuals with strong interests in Native American issues, including John Wesley Powell, who did extensive studies on the Ute people and served as director of the Bureau of American Ethnology from 1879 to 1902, and Charles Lummis, an early ethnographer and Indian rights activist.[48] Moreover, many of the places Moran portrayed were extremely important to Indigenous history and culture, and this critical issue needs to be more fully acknowledged and explored, including considerations of how his art reinforced non-Native appropriations of these sites.

Thomas Moran’s large painting Slave Hunt, Dismal Swamp, Virginia (1862, Philbrook Art Museum) and a drawing at Gilcrease entitled Old Slave Quarters, Fort George Island (1877) are two indicators of his response to slavery. Notably, Slave Hunt was commissioned by an abolitionist in London to help finance Moran’s return home from his English trip to study Turner’s work.[49] Moreover, an 1879 wood-engraved reproduction the artist made of Turner’s painting The Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Over the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On) (1840, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) indicates his involvement with this important work that, upon its arrival in the U.S. in 1872, was called a “mighty voice crying out against human oppression.”[50]

Mary Nimmo Moran seems not to have dealt with either Native American or African American issues in her art, but at least two of her images address issues of class. A City Farm, New York (1881) and The Cliff Dwellers of New York (1881) each present vestiges of rural and lower-class life in New York amid new skyscrapers that tower above. In 1881 the Morans had just moved to 51st Street and 7th Avenue in Manhattan, an area that was quickly gentrifying, and Mary Nimmo poignantly juxtaposed the new urban environment with modest structures that would soon be destroyed, considering as well, it seems, the imminent dislocation of their inhabitants. In a different sense the dwellings may have had personal significance for her and her husband; as children they had arrived as immigrants in the United States and risen from lowly origins to a comfortable affluence.


The Moran collection is one of the great treasures of Gilcrease Museum and an essential resource for understanding Thomas and Mary Nimmo Moran and many issues of their time, offering a wealth of avenues for exploring their varied art and its implications. The two artists portrayed places that have become fundamental to American national identity and grappled with an array of ideas that reveal the richness of their engagement with their world, one that continues to resonate in our own time. Their fascinating imagery offers wonder and wisdom to us, no less than it did to audiences well over a hundred years ago.


[1] Several other Moran collections are significant for their holdings: at East Hampton, New York, is the Moran House and Studio, which was restored and opened to the public in 2018; the East Hampton Guild Hall owns several works; and the Thomas Moran Biographical Art Collection at the East Hampton Library has a large collection of Moran papers, drawings, and prints. The East Hampton Library holdings have been digitized and can be found on the New York Heritage Digital Collections website.

The Smithsonian Institution (both the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Cooper Hewitt in New York), and the National Park Service also have significant concentrations of Moran art and papers. Many other works by Thomas Moran and Mary Nimmo Moran are in public and private collections.

[2] The key studies for Mary Nimmo Moran’s career include Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran”; and Francis, “Mary Nimmo Moran: Painter-Etcher.” For the couple’s relationship, see Bassford and Fryxell, Home-thoughts, from afar; and Siegel, The Morans.

[3] Blackmore lived in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in England. He had long been interested in the American West and had traveled there, most notably participating in the 1872 Hayden expedition to Yellowstone, the year after Moran’s initial visit. Aware of Moran through his friendship with Ferdinand V. Hayden, whom he had met in 1868, and more importantly from Moran’s sale of The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (1872) to Congress, which was pending in May 1872, Blackmore commissioned the sixteen watercolors for $800, perhaps on May 26, when he breakfasted with Hayden and Moran in Washington, D.C.; see Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 203. It has been previously reported that the commission was after the Yellowstone trip that summer and meant as a memorial to Blackmore’s wife, Mary, who died suddenly in Bozeman, Montana on July 18, but Blackmore biographer Anthony Hamber argues that her death was a later association that made the images more poignant rather than a motivation for their creation. Hamber, Collecting the West, 151–52. The Moran watercolors were exhibited at Goupil’s Gallery in New York before being shipped to England; see “Culture and Progress: Thomas Moran’s Water-Color Drawings,” Scribner’s Monthly, 394. Blackmore then loaned the Moran watercolors to an exhibition at the Royal Society in 1873, and they were subsequently displayed at the Blackmore Museum in Salisbury for years. Blackmore’s museum existed from 1867 to 1968. For more on Blackmore’s collecting and the museum, see Hamber, Collecting the American West. Moran created similar watercolor sets for several other patrons at about the same time as Blackmore’s, most notably Jay Cooke, the director of the Northern Pacific Railroad, and Louis Prang of Boston, but only the Gilcrease set remains together today.

Gilcrease’s acquisition of the watercolors was part of the dispersal of some of Blackmore’s holdings after his son, Humphrey Purnell Blackmore, died in 1929. The images were first sold in 1932 through Woolley and Wallis Auctions in Salisbury (March 2–4, lot 347) and then passed through the dealer Paul Larson (Duke Street, St. James’s, London) to Newhouse Gallery, New York, which sold them in 1937 to George A. Hormel (1860–1946), founder of Hormel Foods in Austin, Minnesota. His heir, Jay Catherwood Hormel (1892–1954), sold them through the Los Angeles dealer C. B. Jamison to M. Knoedler and Co., New York, where Gilcrease purchased them in 1947. This information is gleaned from a list of Gilcrease’s Moran acquisitions at Gilcrease Museum; from Clark, Thomas Moran: Watercolors of the American West, 128, no. 37; and from Hamber, Collecting the American West, 153–54n48. The order of ownership in the Gilcrease document and in Clark’s book suggests that Hamber is incorrect in his assertion that Jay Hormel acquired the watercolors before George A. Hormel. It is more likely that George A. Hormel (Jay Hormel’s father) was the original owner in that family.

[4] Information gathered from papers in Gilcrease Museum by Sandra Pauly, fall 2021.

[5] These paintings are significant in Moran’s career in many ways. Specters from the North, for example, was exhibited in the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, and in 1901 Shoshone Falls appeared at the National Academy of Design, the Century Club in New York, and at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, where it received high praise and won a silver medal. (Moran spelled the title Spectres From the North, but Gilcrease Museum now uses the more conventional version.) Both paintings were also displayed in 1923 in what was then called “The National Museum” at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. For more on Shoshone Falls, see Kinsey, “Shoshone Falls,” 16–18; and Hults, “Thomas Moran’s Shoshone Falls,” 89–102. Little has been written about Specters from the North.

[6] The essential scholarship on Thomas Moran includes Thurman Wilkins’s comprehensive biography, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, revised in 1998; and Nancy K. Anderson’s Thomas Moran, which accompanied the National Gallery of Art’s major Moran retrospective in 1997 and includes a detailed chronology and extensive bibliography. See also Kinsey, Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West; Clark, Thomas Moran: Watercolors of the American West; Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches; and Morand and Friese, The Prints of Thomas Moran in the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art.

[7] See Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 9–75; and Morand, “The Early Career of Thomas Moran,” 12–14.

[8] For Ruskin’s influence in the United States, see Stein, John Ruskin and Aesthetic Thought in America, 1840–1900. For Moran’s early interest in Ruskin’s theories, see especially Morand, “The Early Career of Thomas Moran,” 14–16; Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 4, 7, 9–10, 12–13; Kinsey, Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West, 12–16; Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 22–23; and Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 25. Moran had other important theoretical influences during these formative years, especially from his reading of The Crayon and Sartain’s Union Magazine of Literature and Art. For a brief discussion of these see Morand, “The Early Career of Thomas Moran,” 12–14. Ruskin’s influence on Moran was so critical it could merit a single study of its own.

Moran knew many notable artists in Philadelphia, including Thomas Eakins, William Trost Richards, William S. Hasseltine, and others. His interactions with the art world in his home city have been explored only in passing.

[9] Gilcrease owns a number of copies and reproductions Moran made from other works of art, including his first etching (14.400), inscribed “My first plate, after Foster, 1856 about.” Foster was Myles Birket Foster (1825–1899), a British illustrator, watercolorist, and engraver. A search on the Gilcrease collection website using the keywords “Thomas Moran after” results in an array of these copies, and others are in public and private collections. Regarding his literary tastes, Moran’s notes in the Gilcrease collection report that in his early years as an artist he had “an arrangement” with English book importers C. J. Price & Company “by which I was to take books in trade for watercolors.” Miscellaneous Notes (4027.3946). See also Moran’s biographical transcript (4027.3925); and Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 19–20.

[10] For more on Thomas’s commercial career see Kinsey, “Moran and the Art of Publishing,” 300–321, 395–98. Regarding photography, see Morand, “The Camera and the Artist’s Eye,” 4–31. John Moran’s work is addressed in Panzer, “Romantic Origins of American Realism.” Moran’s use of other photographers’ work is discussed in Kinsey, Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West, esp. 54–57.

For an example of a photograph used as reference, see William Henry Jackson’s Great Falls of the Yellowstone (4536.84.19) and Moran’s In the Grand Canyon at Yellowstone, Wyoming Territory (02.1619).

[11] For a discussion of the extended Moran family and its involvement in the art world, see Sandra Pauly’s essay “The Family Moran.”

[12] For more on the Moran family see Siegel, The Morans. John Sartain was a major figure in the Philadelphia art world of the 1850s–70s. For more on his multifaceted life and connections to the Moran family, see Martinez and Talbott, Philadelphia’s Cultural Landscape. A recent study that offers new directions for understanding the Philadelphia environment is Braddock and Igoe, A Greene Country Towne.

[13] These historical landscapes recall Thomas Cole’s in some ways. See especially Truettner and Wallach, Thomas Cole: Landscape into History. David Blayney Brown also discusses Moran’s and Cole’s interest in historical subjects, but with an emphasis on European art, in “Imitation and Independence: Turner, Moran, and Historical Landscape,” 37–50. A recent study (2020) addressing some of the problematic narratives in American history painting is Elliott, Framing First Contact: From Catlin to Russell.

[14] Incomplete autobiographical note, File A No. 60 (MA-6), Moran Collection, East Hampton; cited in Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 47. Gilcrease does have one of her sketchbooks from 1873.

[15] His hiring as a teacher at the school was mentioned in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin (October 27), cited in Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 190. And the same paper reported that he lectured at the Philadelphia School of Design for Women (PSDW) on “the use of oil colors” in 1870. Moran’s creation of the twenty-four studies is found in his own “Old Book of Lists” at Gilcrease (4026.4048). The first part of this ledger book, the “Opus List,” is transcribed in Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 350–57. For more on the history of the PSDW see Walls, “Art and Industry in Philadelphia,” 177–99; and Chalmers, “The Early History of the Philadelphia School of Design for Women,” 237–52. Walls notes that landscape was a new addition to the art curriculum at the school in the 1860s, and it is interesting that Thomas Moran was among its first teachers of the subject there. The subjects and purpose of the twenty-four “studies” for the PSDW remain uncertain since none have been identified, but one lithographed view of a Philadelphia street scene in the Gilcrease collection (14.329) from ca. 1865 may offer a glimpse into this series. It is reproduced in Morand and Friese, The Prints of Thomas Moran, 64.

[16] John Sartain’s ideas about women are found in his The Reminiscences of a Very Old Man, 1808–1897, 14, 42, cited in Martinez and Talbott, Philadelphia’s Cultural Landscape, 120. Sartain’s teaching art to his daughter Emily (1841–1927) was an important parallel to and perhaps model for Thomas’s tutelage of Mary Nimmo Moran. Emily Sartain had a distinguished art career, including serving as director of the PSDW from 1886 to 1920. For more see Peet, “The Art Education of Emily Sartain,” 9–15.

[17] In later years Thomas did other teaching of women, as in his 1881 etching class for the Ladies’ Art Association of New York. Peet, American Women of the Etching Revival, 14.

[18] Thomas Moran to Mary Nimmo Moran from Kanab, Utah, August 13, 1873. Cited in Bassford and Fryxell, Home-thoughts, from afar, 14–15.

[19] Moran’s records at Gilcrease and elsewhere indicate that he did a good deal of his own correspondence, but additional research may reveal that Mary Nimmo Moran was more involved in his multifaceted efforts than has been previously realized.

[20] Bisland, “The Studios of New York,” cited in Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 249–50. Another interesting demonstration of her status in their relationship is found in the deed to the Morans’ East Hampton property, which registers the land in Mary Nimmo Moran’s name alone. Reported in Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 239, for the date of October 22, 1883. The reason for this remains unclear.

[21] The possibility that Moran created The Old Bridge at Hook Pond as a memorial to his wife and son is the subject of Pauly’s 2003 thesis, “Thomas Moran’s The Old Bridge at Hook Pond.” (Note that the work in the High Museum has since been retitled The Old Bridge Over Hook Pond, East Hampton, Long Island.) Mary Nimmo Moran’s A California Forest (after Thomas Moran) was included in John Muir, ed., Picturesque California: The Rocky Mountains and Pacific Slope: California, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, etc. (New York: J. Dewing, 1888). This lavish publication included illustrations in an array of media such as wood engravings, photogravures, and original etchings. Thomas Moran also contributed an etched view of Yosemite, The Half Dome — View from Moran Point (14.654), which served as the frontispiece. For more on the publication see Rainey, “Picturesque California.”

[22] Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches discusses and reproduces almost all of these drawings.

[23] Virgil Williams has received very little attention, but see Post, “The California Years of Virgil Macey Williams,” 114–29.

[24] One of Moran’s paintings from this series is at Gilcrease, Hiawatha and the Great Sea Serpent (1875, 01.1115). See also Sweeney, Artists of Michigan from the Nineteenth Century. Discussions of Moran’s Lake Superior trip usually emphasize the region’s wildness, but although remote and little developed, in 1860 the area was the world’s richest copper-mining region and had a fledgling iron ore industry. For more see Lankton, Beyond the Boundaries; and Reynolds, “‘Destined to produce [a] . . . revolution,’” 21–49.

[25] Moran’s devotion to Turner’s work and his status as “The American Turner” has been written about extensively, most notably in Townsend, J. M. W. Turner “That Greatest of Landscape Painters,” which contains four chapters on Moran’s aesthetic relationship with the British landscapist. See also Townsend, “‘Near Turner’s Point of View,’” 4–15; and Fraterrigo-Fey, “Thomas Moran in the Light and Shadow of J. M. W. Turner.” Following the model of Turner’s Liber Studiorum, early in his career Moran identified his most important subjects as “Studies for Pictures” in his ledger books now in the Gilcrease collection. For more on Turner’s important publication see Forrester, Turner’s ‘Drawing Book.’

Trasatlanticism has been the focus of a number of recent studies, and for their sustained interactions with the British and European art worlds, the careers of both Thomas Moran and Mary Nimmo Moran are ripe for reconsideration in this regard. Useful models include Kornhauser and Barringer et al., Thomas Cole’s Journey; and Barringer et al., Picturesque and Sublime.

[26] Moran’s copies from Poussin, Rembrandt, and others, and a number of his European sketches from 1867 are at Gilcrease. The paintings he exhibited at the Exposition Universelle were Autumn on the Conemaugh (1865, location unknown) and Children of the Mountain (1867, American Museum of Western Art—The Anschutz Collection, Denver). For more on this experience see Morand, “The Early Career of Thomas Moran,” 40–54; and Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 54–75.

[27] Moran’s travels are well documented in the chronology in Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, but also in Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains; Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, and elsewhere. However, many aspects of these experiences remain understudied, including the role of patronage, prevailing understandings and attitudes toward the regions and their cultures, and the intersections of Moran’s images from sketch to finished painting, wood engraving, etching, and so on, to name just a few. Moran’s western experiences have received the most scholarly attention of all of his travels. Especially important studies are Kinsey, Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West; and Truettner, “‘Scenes of Majesty and Enduring Interest,’” 241–59. Greenwald, “The Big Picture,” 175–210, offers additional insights into the ways Moran’s work relates to a range of historical and cultural issues.

[28] See Thomas’s watercolor Fort George Island (02.792) and Mary’s etching Point Isabel, Florida (14.114a-f).

[29] Roblin, “British Impressions,” 64–79.

[30] The Morans were so entranced with Venice that they purchased a gondola, reputedly one formerly owned by Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and had it shipped home to Goose Pond in East Hampton. The gondola survives in the Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, Virginia. The Browning connection is questioned in Rye-Kopec, “A Surprising Souvenir?,” available on the Commonplace website.

[31] Several useful studies for understanding this context include Mancini, Pre-Modernism; Harris, Cultural Excursions; and Burns, Inventing the Modern Artist.

[32] The significance of such studios is discussed in Burns, Inventing the Modern Artist. Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 216–17, reproduces several photographs of the Morans within their carefully crafted aesthetic environment.

[33] The Morans’ interactions with the great fairs seem to have begun with Thomas’s service on the fine arts committee and exhibition of eight paintings at the 1864 Philadelphia Sanitary Fair. Most of their art in the “great fairs” events was Thomas’s, but Mary Nimmo exhibited as well, including several paintings at the Louisville Industrial Exposition in 1879 and the Industrial Exposition in 1881 in Milwaukee. Perhaps most notable of these displays were fourteen of her etchings at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, with two in the Women’s Building and twelve in the Fine Arts Building, the latter earning her a medal and a diploma. (Interestingly it was Emily Sartain who presented her the award.) For more see Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 95–96, 293–95. The best book on women’s work at the 1893 fair, although she does not mention Mary Nimmo Moran, is Corn, Women Building History. Other than the chronology in Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, and passing mention in other sources (especially Wilkins’s Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains), the Morans’ involvement with these important cultural events has been largely ignored.

[34] This picture is undated, but probably originated during Moran’s study of Turner’s work in England in 1862. Turner’s original of 1829 is in the National Gallery in London, and Moran’s copy hung in his studio for years. You can see Ulysses Deriding Polyphemus on the Warner Foundation website.

[35] Although “Big Pictures” were an important part of the nineteenth-century art world, the subject has rarely been addressed other than in analyses of individual paintings. An exception is Peters-Campbell, “The Big Picture and the Epic American Landscape.”

[36] Another important canvas is Grand Canyon of the Colorado River (1892, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 4 1/2 feet by 7 feet, 10 inches). For more on these paintings see Kinsey, Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West, 43–124. Moran painted the 1893 The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone after his second trip to Yellowstone in 1893, and it was displayed in the Wyoming Building of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

The Mountain of the Holy Cross is in the Autry Museum of the American West, Los Angeles; Ponce de Leon is in the collection of the Cummer Museum, Jacksonville, Florida; and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

[37] For an overview of this, see Martinez, “At Home with Mona Lisa”; as well as Kinsey, “Moran and the Art of Publishing.”

[38] For more on this illustration, see Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 79–80.

[39] This issue is mentioned in Kinsey, “Moran and the Art of Publishing”; Kinsey, Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West; and Kinsey, Thomas Moran’s West.

[40] Ewing, “The Metamorphic Drawings of Thomas Moran,” 58–61. Gilcrease Museum has ten of these remarkable drawings, and the East Hampton Library owns more than one hundred and fifty. In a related vein are Moran’s experiments with blot drawings. See Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 283.

[41] Early attention to the Morans’ etchings includes Klackner, A Catalogue of the Complete Etched Works of Thomas Moran, N.A. and M. Nimmo Moran, S.P.E. (1889); Koehler, “The Work of the American Etchers: Mrs. M. Nimmo Moran” (1881), 31; and Everett, “The Etchings of Mrs. Mary Nimmo Moran” (1901), 2–16. More recent studies include Morand and Friese, The Prints of Thomas Moran; Bruhn, “Thomas Moran’s Painter-Lithographs,” 2–19; Bruhn, “Printmaker of the First Rank,” 282–99; Morand, Prints of Nature; Francis, “Mary Nimmo Moran: Painter-Etcher”; Schmid, “Mary Nimmo Moran, Mary Cassatt, and the Painter-Etcher Movement”; and Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran.”

[42] Moran planned a deluxe portfolio called Studies and Pictures of Thomas Moran to be published by John McGuigan of Philadelphia, but the project was never realized. Wilkins, Thomas Moran, 73-74.

[43] For more on this movement see Lang and Lang, Etched in Memory; Helsinger et al., The “Writing” of Modern Life; Chambers, An Indolent and Blundering Art?; and Peet, American Women of the Etching Revival.

[44] Notably this was not true for his rival Albert Bierstadt, whose spectacular prices in the 1860s dropped significantly by 1900; the artist died in 1902 nearly bankrupt. For more see Anderson and Ferber, Albert Bierstadt, esp. 246–48.

[45] Some of this scholarship is underway in the recent work of Alan Braddock and others. See for example, Kusserow and Braddock, Nature’s Nation; and Roberts, Transporting Visions. Tourism is a long-studied topic with a rich bibliography, but two important sources for Thomas Moran’s connections to the issue include Kinsey, Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West, 68–92, 125–35, 153–73; and Davidson, Frederic Church, Winslow Homer, and Thomas Moran.

[46] Two of the more notable discussions of the Morans’ industrial subjects are Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 95–99; and Schulman, “Sugar, Shipping, and Cityscapes,” 123–54.

[47] For more on Moran’s awareness of aridity in the West, especially in regard to the watershed of the Colorado River, see Kinsey, Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West, esp. 108–10.

[48] For commentary on the most notable example of a Native American in Moran’s work, see Kinsey, Thomas Moran and the Surveying of the American West, 44; and Kusserow and Braddock, Nature’s Nation, 17–20.

[49] As several have noted, this exchange reveals abolitionist inclinations in England even as Great Britain supported the American South due to its dependence on cotton for its textile industry. Eleanor Jones Harvey discusses this work and its context in The Civil War and American Art, 195–97. Old Slave Quarter Fort George Island  (13.646) is reproduced in Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 46. Sandra Pauly considers race in one of Thomas’s late paintings and speculates that the Moran family may have had an African American servant in East Hampton. See Pauly, “Thomas Moran’s The Old Bridge at Hook Pond.”

[50] The painting and its move to Boston is discussed in Walker, “From Private Sermon to Public Masterpiece,” 4–13. Turner’s Slave Ship was owned by John Ruskin until 1872, when it was acquired by American collector John Taylor Johnson; he promptly exhibited it at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where Moran would have seen it. Moran’s wood-engraved copy appeared in Monkhouse, The Great Artists: J. M. W. Turner, R.A., chap. 8. Moran’s role in that image is not acknowledged, but his monogram is clearly visible in the lower left corner. See The Slave Ship on the Tate website.



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