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Print F: 'Tween the Gloaming and the Mirk' / Mary Nimmo Moran


Come all ye jolly shepherds,
That whistle through the glen,
I’ll tell you o’ a secret
What is the greatest bliss
That the tongue o’ man can name?
’Tis to woo a bonnie lassie
When the kye come hame.

When the kye come hame.
When the kye come hame,
’Tween the gloamin’ and the mirk,
When the kye come hame.
“When the Kye Come Hame,” James Hogg (1770–1835)

The title of Mary Nimmo Moran’s etching “Tween the Gloaming and the Mirk” refers to the ballad “When the Kye Come Hame” by the Scottish writer James Hogg. First published under this title in 1823, the song was reprinted throughout the late nineteenth century and was popular with Scottish immigrants in the United States such as Nimmo Moran. The time ’tween the gloaming (dusk) and the mirk (dark of night) was the twilight hour when agricultural communities brought the cows (kye) back from grazing in the fields. As Hogg’s ballad indicates, this was also a wonderful opportunity for a man to woo a woman, with subsequent verses noting that the greatest treasure a man could earn in life—far more important than worldly goods—was the love of a woman.1

The ballad to which Nimmo Moran alludes is an intriguing choice for a woman whose husband, fellow artist Thomas Moran, was frequently away on sketching trips to the American West, endeavors that earned him fame and fortune. A gentle nudge, perhaps, to remind him of the value of home and family?2 For it was Nimmo Moran who bore the primary responsibility of creating their home and tending their three children, while simultaneously pursuing her own artistic career. Indeed, the view she depicts here is of East Hampton, Long Island, where the Morans were establishing a home.3 This tranquil, agrarian community would provide a refuge from the hectic world of artistic commerce in nearby New York City for both Morans.4

The print also illustrates Nimmo Moran’s successful endeavors as an artist and her mastery of one of her etching tools, the roulette. The roulette is a revolving toothed wheel on a handle, which can be run over an etching plate to produce patterns of small dots that hold ink, which when printed register as tonal shifts.5 The use of the roulette creates the moody, atmospheric variations in the sky evocative of the descent of night as it overtakes the day. The foregrounding of the road encourages the viewer to follow it back toward the lowering sky, and if one looks closely a solitary figure on horseback ambles up the incline on the way home.

—Sandra Pauly, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Moran Collection Research, 2020

1 “Broadside Ballad Entitled ‘When the Kye Come Hame,’” The Word on the Street (blog), National Library of Scotland. The original poem appeared in James Hogg’s novel The Three Perils of Man (London, 1822) and was revised into the ballad in 1823. The ballad first appeared in Edinburgh’s Blackwood’s Magazine, a publication Hogg helped Edward Blackwood establish in 1817. Eoin Shalloo, curator, Rare Book Collections, National Library of Scotland, email message to author, August 5, 2004.
2 Mary did accompany Thomas on one of his Western trips in 1872. Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 63.
3 Their house was not completed until 1884, but the couple had visited the area on sketching trips as early as 1878. Once the home was finished, they spent most of their year in East Hampton, but moved back to a studio in New York City for several months every winter. Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 181, 205.
4 For more on the development of East Hampton, Long Island, as a popular destination and residence for artists, see Woodward, East Hampton; Braff, Artists and East Hampton; “Summer Studios of American Artists,” Quarterly Illustrator, 209–24; and “Summer Haunts of Artists,” Art Amateur, 50–51.
5 Vittoria, “Nature and Nostalgia in the Art of Mary Nimmo Moran,” 218, 221.

Curatorial Remarks

Etching with roulette, sandpaper ground and drypoint. Sandra Pauly, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Moran Collection Research 3.20.22

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Print F: 'Tween the Gloaming and the Mirk'; Twixt the Gloaming and the Mirk
Mary Nimmo Moran (Artist)
brown printing ink on paper
Landscape; single-sided 0.197- 0.198 mm Cream, machine-made Japan paper. Smooth, slightly mottled surface with clumped fibers in transmitted light.
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
1426.92F; 32338
Not On View

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