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Hermit Chasm, Grand Canyon / Thomas Moran

Essay/Description

In the years following the death of his wife, the artist Mary Nimmo Moran (1842–1899), Thomas Moran visited the Grand Canyon of the Colorado almost every winter. In return for commercial work for the Santa Fe Railroad, Moran received lodging at the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim.1 He never tired of sketching his favorite views of the gorge to work up later into paintings such as The Grand Canyon (01.2351). Moran also explored the extensive network of side canyons, creating drawings such as this one of Hermit Chasm. The sketch reveals the steady hand of a mature artist, as Moran barely lifts his pencil from the paper to create the delicate outlines of the canyon walls in the foreground. He then delineates the distant buttes in an equally fine hand. Although Moran’s drawing suggests the region was uninhabited, it had in fact been home to a rather solitary Canadian.

The hermit of the Grand Canyon was the Quebecois Louis D. Boucher, who came to the United States to try his luck at prospecting. He arrived at the Grand Canyon in 1891 intending to mine copper, but eventually set up two tourist camps, one near Dripping Springs in Hermit Canyon and the other at Boucher Creek. Nearby residents and tourists thought Boucher eccentric but resourceful, and he was known as “the hermit” because his camps were in remote areas. He kept fish in a trough, established an extensive vegetable garden and small orchard, rode a white mule named Calamity Jane, and rented out his other mules to tourists. Although Moran sketched Hermit Chasm, there is no record of the artist meeting its namesake.2

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

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1 Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 164–65, 272–78. Moran first visited Arizona’s Grand Canyon in 1873 with Major John Wesley Powell. The trip resulted in The Chasm of the Colorado (1873–74, Smithsonian American Art Museum, lent by the Department of the Interior Museum, L.1968.84.2). Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 56.
2 Brian, River to Rim, 97, 99–100. For more information about other miners who settled near Arizona’s Grand Canyon, search for the word “miners” on the National Park Service website.

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Title(s): 
Hermit Chasm, Grand Canyon
Creator(s): 
Thomas Moran (Artist)
Culture: 
American
Date: 
June 1908
Period: 
Hudson River School
Materials/Techniques: 
graphite on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
13.864
Previous Number(s): 
1337.864; 19578
Department: 
Notes in the artist's hand; Inscribed by hand in pencil, "Hermit Chasm. Grand Canyon June 1908" in upper center on recto.
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