|'Snowy Range' painting by Thomas Moran, 1896|
Painted in 1896, by the famous American painter Thomas Moran, this oil painting is 15 by 27" and called, 'Snowy Range'. It is a ‘landscape painting of the Grand Tetons’ and is considered to be one of his best works of art. Moran was born in England, and immigrated to the USA. 'He is best remembered for his idealized views of the American West.' I believe Moran has created an impressionist painting, as it depicts both the sublime and beautiful aspects of Western America. The painting can be located in the Denver Art Museum, along with other Western American art.
Being an impressionist painting, Moran captures the moment of being there and the experience. This can be seen through the colours he has used. Against the compositions of the other attributes of the painting the sky is the ‘soul of the scenery’. The cloudless light blue sky highlights the vastness of the West, giving a sense of freedom and optimism. In addition to this the brightness of the sky shines onto the top of the mountains. The mountains in the background have a much lighter heavenly tone. This highlights a sense of peacefulness, however Moran’s painting technique allows viewers to see the rocky dangerous aspect which establishes the more treacherous characteristics of the West. Contrasted to the mountain, the trees have a blended dark green tone, which emphasises the sublime and depict the harsh nature. The tree rise ‘from the gloom of the forest like a dark and ivy-mantled tower.’ The dark colours can also be seen on the rocky banks which surround the river, demonstrating the harsh sublime reality of nature. Unlike the rocky banks and trees, the river is a much calmer serene element of the painting and reveals the beauty of the West. Around the edges of the river, a darker tone is used, which gets lighter as it reaches the middle, blending the darker and lighter tones to show the natural landscape in all its beauty. As the river reaches the foreground it is clear that it is flowing downhill, this gives the river a rougher dangerous element. Through the use of neutral colours, Moran is able to create a natural, peaceful, yet still rough terrain of the West.
Although we are unsure of Moran’s true intentions when painting this, we can assume that he was capturing the vast expanse of the West and the possibilities which it offers. By constructing a painting in which the sublime and beautiful work together Moran expresses and symbolises the freedom which the West has to offer.