Moran’s Green River Cliffs

Thomas Moran
green river cliffs
green river cliffs

A couple of years a go I made a painting trip to Wyoming with a friend of mine, Jeff Love. We painted some in Utah and Dubois, WY and around the Wind River Valley. I taught a workshop around Dubois, Jeff painted and looked for grizzly bears

On the way up to Dubois we went through Green River, WY and the minute we saw those sandstone cliffs ( I’m assuming there sandstone) we recognized Thomas Moran’s painting, Green River Cliffs, which is in the National Gallery of Art. The cliffs are real distinctive and stand out from the Green River which is a tributary of the Colorado River.

Moran came through Green River in 1879 and sketched the river and cliffs. He was on his way to Yellowstone with William Henry Jackson a photographer of the west.

moran painting
moran painting

The first image shown is the watercolor sketch he made (one of many) and the second image is the oil painting he painted in 1881 ( also one of many) back in his studio in New York.

view of green river
view of green river

I also show the photo we took from the spot where Moran painted or sketched. I know it was the spot because we found a small plaque telling us it was. You can tell from the photo that we just missed the same lighting that Moran had in his oil painting, the sun was going down and the light was blasting the cliffs. In our photo the sun was gone, no light blasting the cliffs, but it is a pretty good view of what he saw. He did leave out the prefabricated bank building on the right, good artistic move on his part, but the rest looks pretty close. It’s a good lesson on improving the composition in the studio. You can see the changes he made in the cliffs compared to the watercolor. I also don’t rule out the possibility that he used some of Jackson’s photos, it would certainly be tempting. Of course the photos would have been black and white. Which is a good thing otherwise his studio paintings would look like ours when we depend on photographic color too much. You can enjoy more of his work in:  Thomas Moran

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