The Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone
If there is one painting which sealed Moran’s place in the History of America and its Art then it has to be his depiction of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It was 12ft by 6ft and the jewel in the crown of his work from the Hayden expedition.
More about the painting later but today we visited the Canyon. It is without a shadow of a doubt the most emphatic example of the dramatic forces of nature I have ever seen. There are many vantage points with ingeniously accessible paths and structures, so everyone can see and experience it together safely. Although strangely I felt an exhilarating fear all day, in the presence of this wonder. You can see the full drama and beauty of the falls, which roar over the Canyon’s head standing on a platform just above the very brink.
The water is first a pure white unrelenting cascade embellished with emerald, before it billows on the rocks below becoming thick spray. Eventually fine mists rise from the tumult to form rainbows, a beautiful and subtle surprise after a vision of such force. Following the resultant river your eyes are naturally led down the Canyon walls towering above you and far into the distant horizon. A myriad of vibrant glowing colours are on display in the rock but predominantly a warm light yellow ochre.
After this initial experience the rest of the day is spent touring the many view points along both sides of the Canyon at various heights and proximities to the the main features. All of these are given names some of which allude to their discovery. Three in particular Artists Point and Inspiration point and Uncle Toms View are thought to be the positions from which Moran constructed his painting.
This reconstruction to provide an imagined reality is used frequently in most of Moran’s work and was very common at the time, perhaps most notably in the paintings of his hero Turner.
Seeing this today and referring back to the painting I am able to fully appreciate his incredible achievement and after completing a few sketches at the scene along with the photographic reference, I will get from Andrew, I am really excited at the challenge in producing my own variation on ‘The Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone’.
Tomorrow Old Faithful and The Prismatic pool.