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Springville Cañon / Thomas Moran

Essay/Description

In 1873, Thomas Moran accompanied Major John Wesley Powell’s expedition to the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. The group departed from Salt Lake City but before heading to Arizona, they explored the area in southwest Utah that would become Zion National Park. Moran was one of the first Anglo-American artists to visit and depict the Virgin River region and the many canyons of Zion Valley.1 The artist later used his sketches to work up illustrations such as this one of Springville Cañon, which appeared in the January 1874 issue of The Aldine.2 This was one of five3 based on his Utah sketches that appeared in The Aldine.

Moran’s commercial output was prodigious, estimated by art historian T. Victoria Hansen at over five hundred wood engravings. His association with Scribner’s Monthly resulted in three hundred and fifty illustrations,4 with his imagery also appearing in Harper’s Weekly and The Century magazines. He also created illustrations for books and travel guides, producing seventy engravings for Picturesque B. & O., forty for the 1870s series Picturesque America, and seven for The Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.5 Commercial work was lucrative, providing Moran with an income that helped support his other artistic endeavors and field trips such as the one he took with Powell. When asked if he believed that illustration work curtailed creativity or impugned the integrity of the artist, Moran replied: “No; the real artist will express himself anyway without thinking what will sell best.”6

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

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1 Morand, Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 41–42. Artist Frederick S. Dellenbaugh (1853–1935) accompanied Powell to the Grand Canyon and Zion Valley a year earlier, in 1871–72. Hafen, “This Immense Prodigality of Color,” 9.
2 Utah sketches owned by Gilcrease include Zion Valley (02.853), Spanish Fork Canyon (13.951), Spanish Fork Canyon (13.952), Looking up Eagle Cliff, Spanish Fork Canyon (13.950), and Utah, Virgin River (13.949).
3 Utah wood engravings in the Gilcrease collection are Coburn’s Butte, in Kannarro Cañon (15.400), Storm in Utah (15.346), Valley of the Babbling Water (15.422), and The Narrows of the Virgin River (15.493).
4 Other examples of Moran’s work connected to his Scribner’s commissions include Fort George Island (02.792), Eddy on Rangeley Stream (02.877), and Fairmount Water Works, Philadelphia (13.769).
5 Hansen, “Thomas Moran and Nineteenth-Century Printmaking,” 15.
6 Moran quoted in DuBois, “Thomas Moran Knows Nature and Paints It,” 6.

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Title(s): 
Springville Cañon
Creator(s): 
Thomas Moran (Artist);
J. Augustus Bogert (Engraver)
Culture: 
American
Date: 
1874
Period: 
Hudson River School
Materials/Techniques: 
printing ink on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Accession No: 
15.449
Previous Number(s): 
1526.449; 35514
Department: 
Signed in block with colophon, "TMORAN." in lower left on recto; Inscribed in block, "BOGERT Sc." in lower center on recto; Inscribed in print in ink, "SPRINGVILLE CAÑON.- THOMAS MORAN" in lower center on recto.
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