Earth Notes - Thomas Moran

Flagstaff, AZ – Born in England in 1837 and raised in Pennsylvania, Moran first came out west in 1871, with the Hayden (HAY-DUN) Survey in Yellowstone. His paintings were the first images most people had ever seen of that region, so powerful that Congress declared Yellowstone the world's first national park a year later.

The legislature then purchased Moran's monumental painting "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone," a full 7 feet by 12 feet in size, to hang in the Capitol.

Moran began visiting Grand Canyon in 1873, first with John Wesley Powell's survey of the North Rim, where he painted his famous "Chasm of the Colorado." He returned again with geologist Clarence Dutton in 1880, and a dozen years later met photographer William Henry Jackson in Flagstaff and went to the South Rim.

From then on, he came back almost every year. In an arrangement with the Santa Fe Railroad, Moran was able to capture the spectacular scenery that promoted, and finally preserved, the Grand Canyon as a national park.

Of the canyon, Moran said, "I can only paint it, which I expect to continue to do until my hand ceases to work." And he did, almost until his death, in 1926 at age 89. But he did more than only paint: he helped leave a timeless landscape to those who came later.