The great British American landscape painter Thomas Moran was one of the main men to help create the first National park in the region of Yellowstone. Moran was born in February 1837 Bolton, a town located in North West England in Great Manchester, in the ceremonial county of Lancashire. He was involved with visual arts since a young age and began working as an apprentice in the firm Scattergood & Telfer with wood-engraving. The teen was not inspired by the printing process, preferring to work with the more liberating media of watercolors. He eventually focused his work on illustration instead of printmaking and was producing exclusive drawings for the publications of Scattergood & Telfer by mid-1850s. He ultimately mastered a series of printing techniques taught to him by his brothers, like lithography, etching, as well as wood-engraving. Moran’s main inspiration during this period - who would remain his artistic inspiration throughout his career - was the Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner. Moran admired Turner’s use of colors in his watercolor landscapes. Although today Moran is famous mostly for his oil paintings and watercolors, his rapid popularity was due to his production of stone lithography prints that allowed the artist to create colorful prints of his paintings in a larger scale.
Moran’s family was also very involved with the art world, like his brothers and nephews, and he got married to a painter and printmaker who also enjoyed portraying landscapes, Mary Nimmo. In 1871, the artist would receive an invite that changed his life and mostly his artistic career. By this time the American West was uncharted territory and promised countless possibilities, in which the financier Jay Cooke wished to invest in by sending an exhibition team to explore the Yellowstone region. The artist left along with Dr. Ferdinand Hayden, the director of the U.S. Geological Survey, and a team of dedicated people, for a forty-day adventure in the uncharted wilderness. During this period, Moran documented his experience by writing daily longs in his dairy and produced various sketches of over thirty different locations. Alongside the painter, William Henry Jackson took photographs of the breathtaking landscapes they encountered on their journey. The team’s goal was to convince the Congress and the nation to make the Yellowstone region into the country’s first national park and they were successful in 1872.
It was through the eyes of Moran, along with other artists that explored the West, that the aesthetics of the American National identity was built. He took many expeditions in search of landscapes to portray. As a member of the Hudson River School - a group of artists that portrayed mostly American landscapes - Moran produced sketches and watercolors outdoors and finished the final work in his studio. He would also idealize the scenarios, creating an almost divine natural setting. There was a sense of duality in the artist’s sense of preservation and expansion since he fought to preserve the American West and its natural beauties, but was mostly sponsored by the railroad companies - the same companies that promoted the settlement of the West. Moran would often omit signs of settlement in his paintings, like removing railroads and sometimes even adding native Americans to the landscapes. His Yellowstone expedition leads to huge financial success as well as artistic recognition, which compelled him to sign his name as T.Y.M. - Thomas Yellowstone Moran. The great landscape painter continued working until his elder years and traveled extensively. He died at 89 in Santa Barbara, California, but his legacy lives forever in his artwork and at the Yellowstone National Park.