NEW YORK, NY.- Christies
sale of American Art on May 22 will feature Thomas Morans (1837-1926) magnificent large-scale painting The Grand Canyon of the Colorado. Painted in 1904, the work is one of Morans most ambitious oils of the subject from the period. This canvas presents an awe-inspiring panorama and manifests Morans romantic and inspirational vision of the American West. The Grand Canyon of the Colorado, which has been exhibited at both the Royal Academy in London and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., has not been offered for sale in over two decades. At $8-12 million, this is the highest pre-sale estimate assigned to a work by Thomas Moran at auction, reflecting the superb quality and rarity of this masterwork.
Liz Sterling, Christies Head of American Art, said, Christies is thrilled to offer The Grand Canyon of the Colorado by Thomas Moran as a highlight of our spring sale. A true visual architect of the American West, Moran has the unique ability to convey his own veneration and wonder at the breathtaking landscapes through his dramatic depictions of the Western panorama, undoubtedly his favorite subject. In addition to being vital to the creation of the national park system, works such as The Grand Canyon of the Colorado transformed the allure of the West in the American psyche into an integral part of the American identity.
Moran first visited the Grand Canyon in 1873 as part of John Wesley Powells expedition. The artist eagerly accepted Powells invitation to join the excursion, as he was planning a pendant for his painting Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which Congress had purchased for the Capitol the previous year. Moran was immediately captivated by the unique and dramatic light, color and topography of the Grand Canyon and later wrote, Of all places on earth the great canyon of Arizona is the most inspiring in its pictorial possibilities.
The Grand Canyon of the Colorado is a masterwork of Moran's mature style and represents the artist at the height of his abilities. Although he visited the Grand Canyon many times and created multiple of images of the geologic wonder over the course of five decades, few are as richly complex or as monumental in scale as this painting, which captures the sublime beauty of the area in its expanse of rugged peaks and atmospheric valleys. Throughout, he employs his characteristic keen attention to light, color, and detail and the high vantage point underscores the vastness of the Canyon. Moran studied at a time when the strict realist theories of John Ruskin were lauded and, though adhering to the auspices of precise geologic transcription, it is evident that he was far more interested in capturing and conveying the emotional effect the landscape inspired.
THOMAS MORAN AT AUCTION
The current world auction record for a work by Thomas Moran is Green river of Wyoming, which sold at Christies in 2008 for $17.7 million, against a pre-sale estimate of $3.5-5 million. In addition to setting a record for the artist, it also set the record price for any 19th century work of American Art at auction.