Grand Canyon of the Colorado River Thomas Moran Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Grand Canyon of the Colorado River by Thomas Moran is s astunning landscape painting in oil on canvas, created between 1892 and 1908. The dimensions are and it is housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

This painting was actually sponsored in its creation in order to encourage tourists to the area as the area wasn't well known, so the painting was an early days tourism advert.

The painting quite simply offers a view of rocky landscape as far as the sky, mainly in grey and dark brown. The work starts at the bottom of the painting, which begins high up in a rocky canyon, looking out on the peaks and canyons, with steep rock stacks from the standing viewpoint either side, with static pillars and shelves of grey rock and numerous loose rocks waiting for a chance to slide and wonderfully irregular.

Ahead the canyon stretches, looking as if one could just walk down there, and the high peaks of rock rise each side, the rock shapes are ever changing, sharp and flat, peaked and irregular, and there is a faint hint of green that may be mosses, grasses or low weeds gowing among the rocks. Clouds and mist drift around the peaks, indicating their height and also how high up the painter is as he creates this work. The clouds and mist shadow the already dark and lonely landscape.

There is no human life, or even bird or animal life in the painting, apart from the suggestion of caves further down the canyon, a glimpse of river flowing in the distance and some stunted plants and a tree on the near rock stacks, the scene is eerily deserted, nothing moves, breathes or lives.

On the far landscape, the rocks change nature somewhat, becoming tableaus, there are sheer cliffs and mountains with tabled tops, making a dramatic backdrop and cut-off to the otherwise endless rocky scene. Some kind of smoke, waterfall spray or cloud rises up from the mountains in the middle distance, obscuring a bit of the sky The top of the painting is taken up by a a narrow strip of light blue sky with small white clouds. There is no sun or direct sunlight in the picture, but the subtle uses of light and shadow indicate that the sun may be out. An atmospheric and haunting piece and well worth a view.