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Cephalus and Procris / Thomas Moran


This drawing by Thomas Moran, which probably dates to early in his career, was based on a print from the Liber Studiorum (Book of Studies) series of J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851).1 The influential nineteenth-century British critic, John Ruskin, advised artists to copy prints from Turner’s Liber Studiorum as an adjunct to sketching from nature,2 and Moran biographer Thurman Wilkins relates that Moran traded some of his early watercolors for art books, including several sets of the Liber Studiorum.3

Moran’s decision to copy Turner’s Procris and Cephalus is intriguing as Ruskin specifically praised the etching in his book Modern Painters, enthusing that “no landscape [was] more purely or magnificently imaginative.”4 Ancient Greco-Roman mythology related the tragic tale of Cephalus, who loved to hunt with his javelin. His wife, Procris, however, was convinced he was seeing another woman and hid in the forest to catch him. Cephalus heard movement in the trees and, thinking it was an animal, threw his javelin, mortally wounding his wife.5 Moran’s attempt at copying Turner’s interpretation of this drama most probably served as practice at incorporating figural groups into a landscape.

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

1 Imms, “Liber Studiorum.” The Liber Studiorum was a series of Turner’s etchings published between 1807 and 1819. They were not published as a singular book but, rather, were released in installments of five to six prints annually. Moran’s Cephalus and Procris corresponds to Turner’s Procris and Cephalus included in set 8, published in 1812. Turner’s sketchbooks and the Liber Studiorum are housed at the Tate and are available for viewing on the Tate website under Tate Research Publications, J. M. W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings and Watercolours. Turner’s original drawing of Procris and Cephalus (ca. 1808) is Tate reference number D08144, and his etching for the Liber Studiorum is Tate reference number A00993.
2 Anderson et al., Thomas Moran, 25.
3 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 19–20.
4 Ruskin quoted in Imms, “Procris and Cephalus.”
5 Imms, “Procris and Cephalus.”

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Cephalus and Procris; Cephalous and Procris after Turner
Thomas Moran (Artist)
Joseph Mallord William Turner (After)
mid-19th century - late 19th century
Hudson River School
graphite on paper
Landscape; double-sided 0.182- 0.188 mm Wove, machine-made, smooth surface, cream in color. Same paper as 1316.524, 1316.609
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
1317.879; 35609
Not On View

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