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Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Valley / Thomas Moran

Essay/Description

The vertical format of this sketch allows us to imagine we are standing in front of Bridalveil Fall, in perhaps the same place Thomas Moran stood when he applied the ink wash.1 With a limited palette of black, white, and browns, the artist deftly captured the fluid, sweeping lines of the mountains as well as tonal variations suggestive of mass and depth. Moran applied white gouache in varying degrees of viscosity to create the impression that the water of the falls has some solidity, which then evaporates into mist as it cascades downward.

Although Moran is best known for his images of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, he visited and portrayed other regions that became national parks such as Zion Valley (02.878) and Yosemite. Moran first visited Yosemite during the autumn of 1872 with his wife, the artist Mary Nimmo Moran (1842–1899),2 and the couple completed several field sketches that they later worked up into paintings and etchings.3 In 1887, the couple collaborated on a commission for the book Picturesque California (1888): Moran produced the etched work The Half Dome — View from Moran Point (14.654), which appeared as the frontispiece, and Nimmo Moran based the etching Interior of a California Forest (14.102a) on one of her husband’s drawings.4

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

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1 This sketch may have been used as the basis for Moran’s oil painting Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Valley (1904, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 61.45.1).
2 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 112–13.
3 The Gilcrease collection includes Nimmo Moran’s Mountain, Rocks, Trees (Landscape Yosemite) (02.1647) as well as Moran’s Near Gentry’s, Yosemite (02.847) and Glacier Point from Trail to Vernal Fall (02.835). The National Park Service and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum own a number of the couple’s other sketches from the 1872 Yosemite trip.
4 Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 277–79.

Curatorial Remarks

Although this sketch is inscribed with the date 1904, stylistically it relates to the work Thomas Moran completed of Yosemite in 1872. Anne Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 150/SPauly 3.4.22

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Title(s): 
Bridalveil Fall, Yosemite Valley; Bridal Veil fall Yosemite Valley
Creator(s): 
Thomas Moran (Artist)
Culture: 
American
Date: 
possibly 1872
Period: 
Hudson River School
Materials/Techniques: 
graphite and wash with white gouache on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
02.836
Previous Number(s): 
0236.836; 32068
Department: 
Signed by hand in pencil, "TMoran 1904" in bottom center on recto; Notes in the artist's hand; Inscribed by hand in ink, "Bridal Veil fall Yosemite Valley 900 feet" in lower left on recto.
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