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The Huntington Receives Gift of Thomas Moran Painting


The Huntington is pleased to announce the recent gift of A Mountain Stream (1869), an oil painting by the American artist Thomas Moran (1837-1926), from the late Herbert L. Herscher, M. D., who resided in Altadena, CA, and his family. The painting is now on view in the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery of American Art. This early example from the artist's oeuvre depicts a wild, mountainous landscape and storm-filled sky, probably based loosely on Moran's observations from his expeditions to Lake Superior and the Swiss Alps. The painting will serve as a illuminating comparison with Moran's Rock Towers of the Rio Virgin (1908), which is already part of the Virginia Steele Scott Collection. Although the later work portrays a distinctly arid western landscape, it shares with its eariier counterpart the marked stylistic influence of the great English Romantic painter, Joseph Mallord William Turner(1775-1851).

When A Mountain Stream arrived at The Huntington, the signature appeared to read '"Tho Moran 1869." In cleaning the painting, however, Getty Museum Conservator Mark Leonard discovered the additional term, "OP 44." In 1863 Moran began to assign numbers to his paintings, which he recorded in a handwritten opus list, as well as on many of the works themselves. This list, however, terminates with opus number 42, from November of 1868. The existence of number 44 from 1869 implies a number 43, and suggests the possibility of other unknown "opus" paintings by Moran, as well.

To exhibit this painting to its best effect, the gallery has acquired a fluted, coved frame in the Neoclassical style, dating from the early 1870s. By the 1860s, when Moran painted A Mountain Stream, this frame type was already popular, especially for the Hudson River School paintings that served as such a forceful influence on Moran's own early approach to landscape portrayal. The wood-based frame is covered with applied composition ornament, a chalk and glue mixture molded to look like carved wood and then gilded. This technique eliminated the need for laborious wood carving and became standard for most nineteenth-century frames in both America and Europe.

The Huntington's Scott Gallery is pleased to be able to offer on view important paintings from two distinct periods of Thomas Moran's career, and to have the opportunity to contribute new information on the work of this influential American landscape painter.

This page was originally published 7/29/98 in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 11/28/11

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