Thomas Moran (1837-1926) Setting Sun at Sea  20 1/4 x 30 1/4in
Lot 18
Thomas Moran
Setting Sun at Sea 20 1/4 x 30 1/4in
US$ 200,000 - 300,000
£ 140,000 - 210,000

American Art

20 Nov 2017, 10:00 EST

New York

Lot Details
Thomas Moran (1837-1926)
Setting Sun at Sea
signed with conjoined initials and dated 'TMoran / 1907' (lower left), signed and dated again and inscribed 'Painted for J.G. Moulton. / TMoran · 1907' (on the reverse prior to lining)
oil on canvas
20 1/4 x 30 1/4in


  • Provenance
    The artist.
    James Gardner Moulton, Moulton & Ricketts Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, acquired from the above.
    Private collection, Connecticut.
    Questroyal Fine Art, New York, acquired from the above, 2011.
    Private collection, New York, acquired from the above, 2011.

    This painting will be included in Stephen L. Good and Phyllis Braff's forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist's work.

    Born in Bolton, England, in 1837, to Mary and Thomas Moran Sr., the artist's origins in Europe were short lived. Forced out of the country due to wide spread poverty and near famine in Bolton, Thomas Moran Sr. arrived in America in 1842, followed by his wife and seven children in 1844. In the years that followed, the Moran children prospered. Thomas' older brother Edward Moran (1829-1901) became a successful artist in his own right, exhibiting four paintings at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1854, paving the way for young Thomas to begin his own artistic studies. During this time, beginning in 1853, Thomas worked as an engraver for Scattergood and Telfer in Philadelphia, and began his studies under Paul Weber and James Hamilton, two men who would later be regarded by Moran as fundamental mentors to his development as an artist. (N.K. Anderson, Thomas Moran, Washington, D.C., 1997, p. 25)

    Thomas Moran first ventured out west at the age of thirty-four, in 1871, when he accompanied the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of Territories to Yellowstone National Park, and two years later visited the Grand Canyon. (ibid, p. 48) From this point forward the artist focused exclusively on landscape painting, frequently depicting scenes of the American West or Romantic scenes in European cities such as Venice, Italy. Moran even adopted the nickname Thomas "Yellowstone" Moran and produced a monogram to accompany his new title, 'TYM,' which he signed to his paintings produced after 1872.

    Setting Sun at Sea represents a rare departure from such typical subject matter, illustrating the expert skill we associate with a painter like Moran. An opening at upper center shows a stream of glorious, white sky, still ablaze from the fierce afternoon sun. The sun, which lingers at the horizon, begins to bow to looming gray clouds which signal the darkening night sky entering at left. Stormy waters in foreground grow into crashing waves with peaks of foaming white. The electric hues of pink, yellow and orange recall some of the artist's more familiar Yellowstone and Grand Canyon landscapes. His use of color to varying degrees is on full display, where light and dark exist in harmony. Perhaps a testimony to the artist's personal affliction at the time, the present work seems to shadow the life events that shaped this period for Moran.

    The first decade of the twentieth century was a tumultuous time for Moran. His brothers, Edward and John, died consecutively in 1901 and 1902, then in 1907 he lost is only son, Paul. This was a great period of loss for the artist, but despite these hardships, he worked more than he ever had in his career, producing a great number of paintings, the present lot one among them, executed in 1907, traveling extensively throughout the United States as well as Europe each year until his death. His acquaintance with so many of the world's most beautiful countries seemed to only encourage his fondness for the American landscape. Upon return from a European expedition, Moran told a report for the New York World, "I looked at the Alps, but they are nothing compared to the majestic grandeur of our wonderful Rockies. I have painted them all my life and I shall continue to paint them as long as I can hold a brush." (ibid, p. 164)

    While the grand manner canvases the artist composed of the American frontier captured collectors for the century that followed their execution, the present work, executed in a more intimate scale, illustrates the same fierce passion Moran maintained for American scenery throughout his career.
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  1. Elizabeth Goodridge
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