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St. Johns River, Florida / Thomas Moran

Essay/Description

In his etching St. Johns River, Florida, Thomas Moran presents a rather refined view of the region: the waterway is lined with stately buildings, and boats hug the shoreline in a well-organized manner.1 Even the palm trees seem to queue up in an orderly fashion, their canopies held dutifully erect. Barely a breeze ruffles the waterway or disturbs the majestic palms, which imparts a sense of stillness that might suggest the stifling heat of late summer.

Yet Moran skillfully counters any indication of oppressive heat and humidity with the sheer openness of the composition, created by his inclusion of broad stretches of sky and water. Moreover, the artist filled the vast expanse of sky with billowing clouds that move upward and outward to enliven the scene, resulting in a view that is both uplifting and refreshing.2

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

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1 Art historian Linda C. Hults has remarked on the resemblance of some of Moran's etchings of the St. Johns River, Florida to his Venetian views, such as The Gate of Venice (14.445), observing that the artist simply substituted “rowboats for gondolas.” Hults, “Thomas Moran and the Landscape Print,” 33. Moran’s biographer, Thurman Wilkins, repeats Hults’s assessment, but notes that the etchings probably represent the stretch of the St. Johns River near Jacksonville, which was Florida’s fastest growing city at that time. Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 154.
2 Wilkins, Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains, 152. Moran traveled to Florida in February 1877 for Scribner’s Monthly, to develop illustrations for the magazine’s article on Fort George Island, located at the mouth of the St. Johns River. Moran often created etchings from field sketches that he had made years and sometimes decades earlier. Moran was accompanied on the trip by his wife, the artist Mary Nimmo Moran (1842–1899), who depicted a different stretch of the waterway in her Evening on the St. Johns River, Florida (14.93g).

Curatorial Remarks

Etching and drypoint. Sandra Pauly 3.17.22

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Title(s): 
St. Johns River, Florida; St. John's River, Florida
Creator(s): 
Thomas Moran (Artist)
Culture: 
American
Date: 
1881
Period: 
Hudson River School
Materials/Techniques: 
printing ink on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
1426.652
Previous Number(s): 
1989; 35640
Department: 
Signed in plate with colophon, "TMoran 1881" in lower right on recto; Signed by hand in pencil, "TMoran" in lower right on recto; Inscribed with colophon in plate.
Not On View

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