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Posted at 5:05 PM ET, 03/ 3/2011

National Gallery acquires 1881 landscape by Thomas Moran

By Jacqueline Trescott

Thomas Moran's "Green River Cliffs, Wyoming." (Courtesy of National Gallery of Art)

The National Gallery of Art
has acquired a key landscape of the untamed American West, its third painting by the celebrated 19th century artist Thomas Moran.

"Green River Cliffs,Wyoming," painted in 1881 and one of the artist's most famous paintings, has been added to the collection, the gallery announced.

The painting, a dramatic sweeping view of the West's natural wonders, was installed late Thursday outside the American galleries on the main floor of the museum's West Building.

"Green River," which was featured in the painter's retrospective at the gallery in 1997, is a gift of Vern Milligan, a longtime collector of Western Art and his two children. Milligan purchased "Green River" at auction in 1994 for $2.7 million and has kept it in his private collection, according to the gallery.

"For us this is a very important addition," said Nancy Anderson, the gallery's head of the American and British paintings department. "We have never had one of these panoramic views of the American West. When we did the Moran show, it became very apparent that this was so important. The lender knew we admired it. The gift was a surprise."

It joins the gallery's two other Moran paintings, including "The Juniata, Evening," a landscape of central Pennsylvania, which is also on view in the West Building. A third painting, "The Much Resounding Sea," which is believed to be a view off Long Island, N.Y., is not on display.

The value of Moran's work has been increasing in the last 20 years. In 2008 an 1878 Moran sold for $17.7 million.

Moran was born in England but moved to America as a young child and grew up outside Philadelphia. His travels to the American West, starting with a train trip in the early 1870s, changed his artistic focus. He returned again and again to the West. His watercolors of Yellowstone Park played a critical role in Congress setting aside the land as the country's first national park.

By Jacqueline Trescott  | March 3, 2011; 5:05 PM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott, Museums, National Gallery of Art  | Tags:  19th Century art, landscape painting, national gallery of art, thomas moran  
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