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The Moran Family of Painters: Edward, Leon, Thomas, Mary & Peter Moran

May 14 - August 28, 2005


The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts will present an exhibition of the works of the Morans, a nineteenth-century family of painters and etchers, Edward, Leon, Thomas, Mary and Peter. The exhibition will open with a public reception on Sunday, May 15, 2005 between the hours of 2:30 and 4:00 p.m., and will continue through August 28, 2005. More than fifty works of art will be shown, twenty-three of which will be on loan from the Worth B. Stottlemyer Collection of Juniata College Museum of Art and the remainder will be from the Museum's Permanent Collection, Yellowstone National Park, the Reading Public Museum, other museums, galleries and private collectors. (right: Thomas Moran (1837-1926), "Lower Manhattan from Communipaw, New Jersey", 1880, oil, Collection of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, Hagerstown, Maryland, Museum Purchase, 1940, A303)

Thomas Moran (1837-1926), the most famous artist in the family, is best known for his paintings of the American West; his wife, Mary Nimmo, for her etchings of eastern views; and brothers Edward and Peter, as well as Edward's son, Leon, for their seascapes, portraits and genre scenes. Originally from Bolton, Lancashire, England, the Moran family, father Thomas, Sr., mother Mary Higson Moran and sons Edward, John, Thomas and Peter immigrated to America around 1844. They settled in Philadelphia where the children received an education rich in art. At the age of sixteen, Thomas became apprenticed to a wood engraving firm and in 1861, he traveled abroad to London to study the paintings of J. M. W. Turner (1775-1851) and Claude Lorrain (1602-1682). In 1871, Moran took his first expedition to Yellowstone country and in 1873, he took a second, making sketches for his two great works, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which will be on view on loan from Yellowstone National Park, and The Chasm of the Colorado.

Edward (1829-1901), the oldest, is reputed to be the impetus behind the family's interest in the art world. By the 1880s he was considered an expert on marine painting and after his death in 1901, an admirer wrote, "As a painter of the sea in its many moods and phases, Edward had no superior in America."

Leon (1864-1941), also known as John Leon, was the son of Edward and made his reputation as a figure painter, mostly in watercolor.

Mary Nimmo Moran (1842-1899), Thomas' wife, was a native of Scotland and established herself as one of the foremost nineteenth century landscape etchers in the United States. Many of her etchings were made on-site directly onto the copper plate. Her family came to the United States in 1852 and they were neighbors of the Moran family. Due to health reasons, Mary could not accompany her husband on his western trips and Thomas suggested she take up etching. In the 1880s, she was recognized as the leading American woman etcher.

Peter (1841-1914), the youngest of the Moran brothers, was three years old when the family came to America. He was apprenticed at the age of fifteen to lithographic printers, Herline and Hersel of Philadelphia. He became his brothers' best pupil, but his interest was in animal subjects rather than marines and landscapes. After a trip to England in 1863, he returned to Philadelphia and made his mark as a competent and prolific etcher.

This exhibition is sponsored by Mr. and Mrs. Charles L. Pitzer of Hagerstown, Maryland.


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Read more articles and essays concerning this institutional source by visiting the sub-index page for the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Resource Library.

TFAO also suggests this video:

Thomas "Yellowstone" Moran is a 12 minute National Gallery of Art video that "Recounts the story of Moran's involvement with the government-sponsored survey expedition to Yellowstone in 1871. Using archival photographs and footage of Yellowstone, the video shows the pivotal role that Moran's paintings of this area played in securing passage of the first national park bill ." This program is available in the DVD collection: American Art, 1785­1926: Seven Artist Profiles.This DVD is lent free of charge through the National Gallery of Art's Division of Education (go to NGA Loan Materials)

TFAO does not maintain a lending library of videos or sell videos. Click here for information on how to borrow or purchase copies of VHS videos and DVDs listed in TFAO's Videos -DVD/VHS, an authoritative guide to videos in VHS and DVD format.

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