The artist worked for Scattergood & Telfer as an apprentice and went about trying to discover which mediums of expression were most to his taste. He was encouraged to follow a path in sculpture by his employers, but quickly found himself more interested in painting and drawing. He found his work tasks to be somewhat tedious and prefered to work on his own ideas outside of working hours. He was eventually used a the company's illustrator, because of his changing tastes. He would also start to study the work of other artists from previous centuries and this opened his eyes up to what could be possible within his own career. JMW Turner was an artist who particularly inspired him, and introduced him to both watercolour and oil paintings. It also brought landscape painting to his attention, from one of it's finest exponents.
For the next few decades, Moran would continue to experiment with different mediums, still unsure as to where his talents and passion lied. He continued to work as an illustrator, taking in other publications, some of which offered him greater artistic license and boosted his self confidence. Whilst enjoying the work more than previously, he also experimented with lithography, engraving and various styles of painting. He was slowly starting to find his true path, whilst continuing to develop his skills as a professional draughtsman. Moran also started to travel in order to see original artworks with his own eye, including to England, the nation of his birth, in order to better understand the work of JMW Turner.
The drawing that we display in this page was produced in Vernal Falls, Yosemite in 1904. The artist would travel around the stunning landscape of America, armed on some occasions with merely just a few pencils and notepads. It wasn't always possible to transport all of the equipment required to work outside in oils or watercolours, although the latter was potentially more possible. The drawing that we find here features regions of shading of this cross section of a landscape. It is unusually in portrait form. The artist also left a few notes in the bottom right hand corner. The reduced detail plus use of shaded regions is fairly similar to how he would have worked when producing landscape watercolour paintings, whilst his work with oils would tend to go into much greater detail. The two forms of painting are particularly different, with strengths and weaknesses that draw in some artists, and force other to stick with the alternative.
In the early 1870s, the artist was commissioned to amend a number of sketches of various locations in Yellowstone. They had been produced by another artist, but it was belived that this young man had the ability to improve them substantially. This project later led to him visiting the same region himself, having saved up in order to pay for his own travel, such was his new desire to make this trip. This proved a significant moment in his career, with some prominent commissions resulting from that journey, including the American Congress. At that point, his reputation was ensured, at least in the short term, and he was able to follow his chosen path rather than being concerned purely about financial survival. All of this came from his initial drawing work, underlining its importance in opening up opportunities for him as he developed his skills with watercolours and oils.
Moran continued to travel around America and abroad for the rest of his career, always following the work patterns that he learnt from his studies of British artist, JMW Turner. The Brit, himself, had been inspired by the work of Claude Lorrain in France, and so the path continues ever onwards. We also know that Claude Monet took Turner's achievements into his own work, completing the cycle from France to the UK and back again. Moran sketched many locations as well as formulating a number of simple watercolours during his travels. He also found likeminded companions in the Hudson River School, where he was joined by the likes of Bierstadt, Church and also Thomas Cole, who was the original leader of this creative group. You will find a similarity with how Moran and Turner used multiple notebooks to record their travels in pencil and watercolour whilst travelling through their native landscapes.