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Española, New Mexico / Thomas Moran

Essay/Description

In autumn 1881, Thomas Moran traveled to Colorado and New Mexico, gathering material to fulfill commissions for Colorado Tourist and Illustrated Guide and for Ernest Ingersoll’s book Crest of the Continent (1885).1 Moran took the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to Chicago after completing a commission for their travel guide, Picturesque B. & O. (13.1006); he then traveled to Denver, where he transferred to the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, which provided transportation for the Colorado and New Mexico commissions.2 When he arrived in Española, New Mexico, Moran seems to have been so taken with the town that he grabbed a sheet of B. & O. stationery left over from his earlier trip and produced this quick watercolor sketch.

Moran’s study effectively portrayed the town’s flat-roofed adobe architecture and the Rio Grande Valley as it stretches out to the Sandia Mountains in the distance. Founded in 1598 by the Spanish as the capital of Nuevo México and formerly known as San Juan de los Caballeros, the town was renamed after the railroad arrived in 1880 and the crews began calling it Española, allegedly after a popular café.3 At the time, the small municipality was the terminus for the railway, but there were plans to extend the line to Mexico City.4 This excursion on the Denver & Rio Grande also took Moran to several pueblo communities, some of which he revisited in the years to come, portraying them in oil paintings such as Laguna Pueblo (01.1105).

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

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1 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 210–12. Ernest Ingersoll and photographer William Henry Jackson accompanied Moran on the trip through Colorado and New Mexico.
2 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 209–10. Moran spent late July through early August on the B. & O. Railroad junket, and late August through October on the Denver & Rio Grande trip.
3 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 216–17. The capital of Nuevo México moved to Santa Fe in 1610. New Mexico remained a territory until 1912, when it became a state.
4 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 214–16.

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Title(s): 
Española, New Mexico; Espanola New Mexico
Creator(s): 
Thomas Moran (Artist)
Culture: 
American
Date: 
1881
Period: 
Hudson River School
Materials/Techniques: 
watercolor and graphite on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
02.848
Previous Number(s): 
0236.848; 22078
Department: 
Signed by hand in pencil, "T.Moran" in lower left on recto; Notes in the artist's hand; Artist's color notations and reference notes are present in sketch; Inscribed by hand in pencil, "Espanola New Mexico" in upper left on recto; Inscribed by hand in pencil, "Rio Grande" in center on recto; Inscribed by hand in pencil, "Adobe Houses" in lower center on recto; Inscribed in type "Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Co. Passenger Department. Cumberland, Md. 1881" in center right on recto; Inscribed by hand in black ink, "359." in upper left on verso.
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