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The Great Aqueduct of the Campagna, Rome / Thomas Moran


Thomas Moran, accompanied by his wife Mary Nimmo (1842–1899) and their two-year-old son Paul (1864–1907), left the United States in the summer of 1866 for an extended visit to Europe. The family stopped briefly in England, and then spent the remainder of the year in Paris, visiting the numerous art galleries and exhibitions. By February 1867, the family was off to Italy, stopping at art museums from Milan to Naples before settling into life in Rome, where sketching kept Thomas occupied for months.1

In The Great Aqueduct of the Campagna, Rome, the long shadows lend a haunting quality, and seem to acknowledge the centuries that have passed since this marvel of engineering was used to bring water to the Eternal City. Begun around 50 CE by Emperor Claudius, the aqueduct stretched from the walls of Rome to the Sabine Mountains twenty miles to the east. The ruins were a popular subject for both European and American artists during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.2

Art historian Anne Morand has pointed out an intriguing detail in the image: a shepherd and flock in the middle ground, which suggests Moran’s familiarity with portrayals of other Roman aqueducts by American artist Thomas Cole (1801–1848).3 Although Cole was more than thirty years older than Moran and died when Moran was eleven, the parallels between the two artists’ lives are striking. Cole, like Moran, was born in Bolton, England, and emigrated to the United States. Both artists admired the work of J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), and Cole had met his artistic hero while on a visit to England in 1829. Both Moran and Cole crisscrossed the Atlantic on several occasions looking for artistic inspiration throughout Europe, with Cole visiting Italy from the summer of 1831 through 1832.4 Cole’s time in Rome provided inspiration for the oil paintings Aqueduct near Rome (1832, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, WU 1987.4) and The Roman Campagna (1843, Wadsworth Atheneum, 1948.189), both of which include a goatherd amidst the shadows cast by the ruins of ancient aqueducts.

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

1 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 55–58. Moran created sketches of a variety of ancient sites in and near Rome, forty of which are owned by Gilcrease. He dated and inscribed most of these with a location, including Colosseum, Rome (02.863), Palace of the Caesars, Rome (02.941), Claudian Aqueduct (02.857), and Pines in the Villa Borghese, Rome (02.868).
2 Stebbins, “American Painters and the Lure of Italy,” 45.
3 Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 33.
4 Kornhauser and Barringer, Thomas Cole’s Journey, 21–24, 35–37, 47.

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The Great Aqueduct of the Campagna, Rome
Thomas Moran (Artist)
Hudson River School
graphite and wash on paper
Landscape, single-sided Primary: 0.134-0.156mm Secondary: 0.172-0.183 The primary support is brown in color, machine-made and wove. The secondary support is cream, smooth, machine-made paper.
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
0276.860; 28326
Not On View

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