Edward Moran was born on August 19, 1829, in the city of Bolton, England. His father was a weaver, and Moran learned to manage a hand-loom at a rather young age. However, he was often found sketching on the white fabrics with charcoal.
In 1844, his entire family immigrated to the United States. First, they would set in Baltimore, and one year later, they established themselves in Philadelphia. By 1845, Moran was an apprentice under James Hamilton, who guided him towards the style of marine painting, as well as under Paul Weber, the German landscape painter.
In 1850, Moran was already making a name for himself in the artistic scene of Philadelphia, executing commissions and a few lithographic works. At that time, he was working at the same studio as Thomas Moran, who was his younger brother and also became a distinguished artist.
In 1862, Moran went to London, becoming a pupil at the Royal Academy. Upon his arrival back in the US, Moran married his second wife, Annette, who became his apprentice and later a landscape artist in her own rights. In 1872, he established a new studio in New York.
In March 1871, Moran executed one of his most famous exhibits, Land and Sea, composed of 75 marine and landscape paintings; these pictures would be later illustrated in a catalog. Moran donated his income from the said catalog, the exhibit, and the sale of the painting The Relief Ship Entering Havre, to the relief of the Franco-Prussian war, which ended a few months prior, on January 28, 1871.
By 1885, at the pinnacle of his career, Moran would begin what is often considered his most important work, a series of thirteen oil paintings depicting the maritime history of the United States. The motifs of such paintings often included famous explorers and navigators, such as Hernando de Soto, Admiral Dewey, Henry Hudson, Christopher Columbus, and Leif Ericson, among others. This series was displayed at the 1893’s World Columbian Exposition, not long after their completion.
The artist lived in New York City until his passing, in 1901. By the time of his death, Moran was regarded as the most prominent marine painter from the 19th century. Today, however, his fame may be eclipsed by his younger brother, Thomas Moran.
The Moran family produced many artists. His other brother Peter Moran, both his sons, Edward Percy and Leon Moran, as well as Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, his nephew, also became noteworthy American artists.