See Yellowstone watercolor field sketches by the famous Western artist Thomas Moran this summer at Jackson’s National Museum of Wildlife Art.
Happily timed to coincide with Yellowstone’s 150th anniversary as the country’s first national park, the exhibition Scenes of Transcendent Beauty: Thomas Moran’s Yellowstone at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming, shows the park and the artist in a transcendent state.
Jackson sits about 100 miles from the Old Faithful Geyser. As you stand in front of Moran’s intimate sketches a relatively short drive away from where he painted them in the 1870s, the notion of “transcendent beauty” may overcome you, as it did him when he first saw Yellowstone on the first official expedition there.
On assignment as a painter for the Hayden Expedition of 1871, Moran and his fellow explorers struggled for words to describe the breathtaking scenes of “transcendent beauty,” which is the phrase he himself used in his own writings.
The exhibition of 20 watercolor field sketches explores the impact of Yellowstone on Moran and of Moran on Yellowstone. Th symbiotic relationship changed the course of Moran’s life and proved vital in the creation of the world’s first national park. On loan from the Yellowstone Heritage and Resource Center in Gardiner, Montana, the intimate sketches provide a rare window into Moran’s artistic process and give the view insight into Moran’s Yellowstone.
“The earlier descriptions of Yellowstone sounded like science fiction to anyone who lived in the East,” says Tammi Hanawalt, curator of art at the National Museum of Wildlife Art. “By Moran returning from Yellowstone with his sketches and paintings, he made it real and helped people realize Yellowstone was a truly unique place that needed to be protected.”
Moran cemented his connection to Yellowstone by adopting the nickname Thomas “Yellowstone” Moran, signing his works with the related monogram “TYM” after 1872. He last visited Yellowstone in the 1920s, shortly before he died, and wrote in a diary of his expedition. The original diary is part of the Yellowstone National Park’s museum and archives and is included in the exhibition.
The exhibition also features interactive digital watercolor stations, where visitors can try their hand at depicting Yellowstone’s unbelievable landscapes. Available for purchase in the newly remodeled Museum Shop are two books on the artist — Thomas Moran: Artist of the Mountains by Thurman Wilkins, and Thomas Moran: The Field Sketches, 1856 – 1923 by Anne Morand — and a giclee reproduction of Moran’s painting The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone (a reproduction of the original of The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone will be on displayed in the exhibition).
Scenes of Transcendent Beauty: Thomas Moran’s Yellowstone is on view through August 23 at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming. wildlifeart.org