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Camp in the Mountains / Thomas Moran

Essay/Description

Thomas Moran’s Camp in the Mountains offers a glimpse into his life during sketching expeditions to remote areas. As this oil painting is undated, it could represent any of Moran’s field trips or the combined memory of several. Nonetheless, the composition, the canvas tent, and the mountains in the distance resemble several of the artist’s drawings from his 1874 excursion to the Rocky Mountains.1 For Moran, that journey was a mix of pleasant bivouacs and arduous events. Only the storm clouds rolling in over the snow-covered peaks in this painting hint at the calamities that could occur while trekking through the wilderness.

On August 10, 1874, Moran wrote his wife, the artist Mary Nimmo Moran (1842–1899), that he was doing well and “on Sunday morning we left Morrison & travelled 12 miles to our present Camp which is in a pretty place.”2 Two weeks later, however, he related that while setting up camp the previous week, “the horses all got away and we had a big time to get them before night.”3 The next few days proved equally challenging as they “began the ascent of the intervening mountain between us and the Roche Moutonnée Valley, & of all the hard climbing that I have experienced, this beat it . . . added to all this it rained on us all the time, making the logs and rocks extremely dangerous & slippery . . . we were all very much played out next morning” and eager to return home.4

—Sandra Pauly, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Moran Collection Research, 2021

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1 These sketches are owned by the National Park Service, but are reproduced in Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 43–45, 156–57: Camp of the Two Pines (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial 5856), Camp of the Evening Star, on the Platte (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial 4249), Holy Cross Trip, Camp Vexation (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial 4745), and Camp on the Upper Arkansas, in Tennessee Pass (Jefferson National Expansion Memorial 4256).
2 Moran in Bassford and Fryxell, Home-thoughts, from afar, 45.
3 August 24, 1874, Moran in Bassford and Fryxell, Home-thoughts, from afar, 51–52.
4 August 24, 1874, Moran in Bassford and Fryxell, Home-thoughts, from afar, 53, 55–56. See also the Gilcrease archives, 38.795.

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Title(s): 
Camp in the Mountains
Creator(s): 
Thomas Moran (Artist)
Culture: 
American
Date: 
late 19th century - early 20th century
Period: 
Hudson River School
Materials/Techniques: 
oil on wood
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
01.1106
Previous Number(s): 
0126.1106; 452; 27165
Department: 
Signed by hand in paint with colophon, "TMoran" in lower right on recto.
Not On View

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