Synopses & Reviews
Watercolor images of Yellowstone Park painted in the early 1870s by artist Thomas Moran shifted America's gaze westward. Published as a portfolio of chromolithographs by Boston lithographer Louis Prang, these brilliant reproductions—with a companion text on Yellowstone geology by explorer Ferdinand Hayden—were the first color images of our first national park widely available to the general public. As such, they helped shape America's growing fascination with the West.
The Yellowstone National Park portfolio, comprising nine images of Yellowstone and six of other sites, is also now regarded as the finest example of chromolithography ever produced. Yet today these images are less well known than Moran's dramatic oil paintings and are usually admired merely as curiosities of an obsolete technology.
Joni Kinsey, a preeminent authority on Moran, shows that these and other chromolithographs by the artist in fact had an important place in American visual culture and were a vital part of the artist's career. Thomas Moran's West reproduces this renowned collection, along with two dozen other color plates and over 100 black-and-white illustrations, to recapture their impact on the American imagination.
Chromolithography was outmoded by 1900 but represented an important transition in American art. Whereas previously published images of the West had been black-and-white engravings, Moran's chromolithographs had the vivid beauty of high art but could be acquired by individuals who couldn't afford originals. Today the prints are highly valued by collectors, who will appreciate seeing them with related field sketches and watercolors—and in some instances rare printer's proofs from Joslyn Art Museum. Kinsey describes the making and popularity of "chromos," chronicles the debates over their artistic legitimacy, and tells how this medium competed with other forms of picture-making in the late nineteenth century. She also explores Moran's relationship with Prang and thoroughly analyzes the Yellowstone images—including those held back from publication.
Both a visual feast and an authoritative treatise, Thomas Moran's West gives us breath-taking images of unspoiled wilderness as it sheds new light on how artistic portrayals of the West contributed to our national identity.
This exquisite suite of Thomas Moran chromolithographs provided Americans with their first color images of the first national park. These understudied chromolithographs, painstakingly produced only for a short time, played a large role in a revolution in American visual culture and Moran, in particular, had a great impact in shaping attitudes toward the American West.
Table of Contents
1. Louis Prang and the Chromo-Controversy
2. Thomas Moran and the Published Image
3. The Prang Portfolio
4. The Unpublished Works of the Prang Series
5. Ferdinand Hayden and the Production and Marketing of The Yellowstone National Park
6. The End of an Era