Los Angeles

Thomas Moran

University of California, Riverside

It is difficult for a viewer attuned to contemporary art to clarify his eye enough to see Thomas Moran’s (1837–1926) work. Superficially, they be­long on a plush dude ranch or on the set of a motion picture about some cat­tle baron. Even after closer examination, many are so steeped in the spirit of the spurious and excessive sensibility of the Victorian Age that it is nearly impossible to observe them objectively. But Moran was more than an illustrator, as even The Last Arrow and Spirit of the Indian show, if looked at carefully, and in the works where the artist at­tempts to convey his feelings about the American Scene in a straightforward and non-sentimental manner, there is a great deaI of merit. In such works as Western Landscape, 1864, and the late Grand Canyon of the Colorado, the art­ist uses light, handles forms, and cap­tures atmospheres in a thoroughly painterly manner. The works that show his interest in Turner, unfortunately, are merely second-rate attempts to cap­ture Turner. But they do show an at­tempt by the artist to grow, and expand his concepts; the Seascape painted after his visit to Venice is a powerful work. The Metamorphoses, those strange little drawings or paintings done over newspaper photographs, changing society figures into landscapes, or scenes into figures, are enough to make the viewer pause and wonder just what Moran might have done had his life been lived in a different era or place.

One of the admirable features of the exhibition is the catalog. It covers a number of points very well, and gives the casual viewer an opportunity to re­late Moran to his time, as well as pre­senting enough information on Moran and his work so that it is possible to trace his development.

H. J. Weeks