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The Children of the Mountain is an oil on canvas painting by Thomas Moran. Moran was an American painter, photographer, and printmaker of the Hudson River School in New York. He was famously known as the Artist of the Mountains, as his art often featured the Rocky Mountains.
This piece of artwork was created and exhibited at the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1866-1867. Currently, it is housed at the American Museum of Western Art in Denver, USA and is part of the Anschutz Collection.
The setting of Moran’s Children of the Mountain painting illustrates an Alpine-like scene. In the background, a heavy overcast sky presses down on the somewhat brightly coloured mountains. There is no sign of fauna save for the three birds flying in the air. On the left side of the painting, the craggy landscape makes up a few trees. Turbulent white water is seen plunging down the mountain forming a spectacular cataract. Eventually, settling into a river that appears to be calm and shallow. Moran has artistically used bright colours on the left side to illustrate how the slopes have been exposed to the sun’s rays. He also created a contrast between the rocky terrain on the right side of the painting and the steep slope of the left side. The right foreground is also punctuated with brown and green shrubs.
The illumination of the sun on the slopes, the reflection in the shallow waters and the shades of the sky contribute to a kind of Environmental Romanticism. Landscape paintings of the Western Romantic Movement deliberately conveyed a feeling of nobility. The landscapes are alive, with vast geological features, rippled water and spectacular clouds and thunderstorms. The most important feature is the continuous interaction of light and shadow in all these functions. Humans are rarely depicted and if so, they appear tiny.
Why Children of the Mountain?
Most of Thomas Moran’s paintings do not envision human beings. In this painting, Moran’s goal was to depict the wilderness just as it is ignoring any form of civilisation. The 19th century Romantic Movement, as embodied by the Hudson River School painters, presents a vision of nature outside human influence.
Who inspired Thomas Moran?
Joseph Mallord William Turner’s paintings deeply inspired Moran. Turner also influenced how his peers viewed the natural world. Moran travelled to Great Britain to encounter Turner’s art first-hand. Moran later on traded his watercolours to acquire Turner’s published Liber Studiorum.