Born in England in 1837, Thomas Moran is best known for his pictures of the Yellowstone region, which are partially responsible for helping to create Yellowstone National Park. At the age of seven, Moran moved to Philadelphia with his family and by the age of fifteen, he had begun an apprenticeship in woodcarving. He quickly discovered a skill in drawing which led him to creating and marketing small watercolors. Years later, Moran was creating sketches, lithographs, etchings and paintings. He was fascinated with color and was always looking for innovative ways to work color into his work.
Moran first became interested in the American West from stories of the Yellowstone region in Montana and Wyoming. He contributed illustrations for “The Wonders of Yellowstone”, an article by Scribner’s magazine, without ever having seen the Yellowstone region. He worked from the notes and sketches of previous explorers of the region. In 1871 Moran joined a Geological Survey expedition as a guest artist to the region and during this trip he created an extensive amount of sketches. When he returned to the East, Moran painted from his sketches, paintings that carried a great deal of weight in convincing Congress of the beauty of Yellowstone National Park.
Moran made a second trip out West, this time visiting Utah, Arizona, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, as well. His paintings of the Grand Canyon reflect his intrigue with the colorful formations he saw there. Moran traveled to Colorado in 1874, creating sketches that would later become beautiful paintings, including his well-known work, “Mountain of the Holy Cross, Colorado”. Moran continued to sketch and paint until his death in 1924.