Published: July 29, 2020
RENO, NEV. — Thomas Moran’s (American, 1837-1926) arresting landscape painting, “Green River, Wyoming,” sold for $1,638,000 at Coeur d’Alene Art Auction’s July 25 sale. The oil on canvas measured 13¼ by 20 inches and was executed in 1883. It sold to a private collector.
The Green River and the iconic butte rising behind it was a favored destination of Moran, who executed a number of works on the subject throughout his career. He first visited and sketched the location 12 years prior in 1871 on his first sojourn to the American West. When he returned in 1879, he would again create sketches of this area and the large butte in particular, which, according to Phyllis Braff, co-editor of the Thomas Moran Catalogue Raisonné, could be regarded as direct reinforcement for planning this painting.
Braff wrote, “The locale’s visual power contributed to the artist’s decision to undertake a number of Green River interpretations over the years. While each differs in tonality, mood and compositional details, the orientation depicted here is one that is often considered to be outstanding because of its strong impact. The tall, steep-sided, towering rock butte serves as a dynamic focal point while at the same time emphasizing the forces of geology and the drama of the red crown.
“In the early 1880s, when ‘Green River, Wyoming’ was executed, Moran was just entering the most painterly creative phase of his career, traveling less and concentrating on the studio work that permitted him to explore expanded possibilities for pigment and brushwork. This led to particularly stunning golden atmospheric effects in ‘Green River, Wyoming,’ where layers of soft paint strokes in warm, sun-drenched yellow, orange and red-orange tones build and define both the distant sky and the foreground river. By merging the optical sensation of far away stone peaks with nearby ephemeral reflections through color and technique, Moran unifies the entire surface. It is a pleasing effect and an achievement considered quite modern.”
Coeur d’Alene Art Auction partner Mike Overby said, “The ‘Green River’ paintings are always highly sought-after, a serious Moran collector always has one in their collection. It had all the lighting you want in a Moran, and it was a nice medium size, too.”
Overby said the work had come from a private collection, where it had been for quite a while.
A full review on this sale will appear in a future issue.
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