by Donna Poulton
Thomas Moran's 19th Century paintings of the western landscape continue to migrate to the East. The National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. recently received a gift of the famed artist’s painting Green River Cliffs, Wyoming from collector Vern Milligan who purchased it in 1994 for $2.7 million.
Moran is well known for his powerful paintings of the West. His Grand Canon of the Yellowstone, and Chasm of the Colorado were bought by Congress to grace the U.S. Capitol in the 1870s.
But it is his paintings of Green River Wyoming that are attracting attention and large auction records. In 2008, his 1878 painting of Green River of Wyoming sold for a staggering $17.7 million.
Moran made numerous treks to the west, most often on the Transcontinental Railroad crossing the Green River at Green River, Wyoming. This was also the embarkation point of John Wesley Powell’s heroic adventure to run the course of the Green and Colorado Rivers.
John Wesley Powell on Green River. Photo courtesy of Utah Historic Society
Train Station in Green River, Wyoming. Photo courtesy of Wyoming Tales and Trails
A true test of the market will happen at the Scottsdale Art Auction on April 2nd, 2011 when Moran’s Indian Summer, Green River, Wyoming is sold to the highest bidder. The painting is smaller than others that have sold for high prices and it was painted later in Moran’s life, but if it follows recent trends, it might bring well over the high estimate of $5 million.
Green River, Wyoming. Photos by C.N. Plummer