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Thomas Moran Exhibition to Open at the National Museum of Wildlife Art

April 14, 2022

The National Museum of Wildlife Art (NMWA) will open Scenes of Transcendent Beauty: Thomas Moran’s Yellowstone on May 14, 2022, an exhibition celebrating Yellowstone National Park’s 150th Anniversary this year. The exhibition will be on view through August 23, 2022.

Scenes of Transcendent Beauty explores the impact of Yellowstone on Thomas Moran and of Moran on Yellowstone. This symbiotic relationship changed the course of Moran’s life and proved vital in the creation of the world’s first national park. This exhibition includes 20 watercolor field sketches on loan from the Yellowstone Heritage and Resource Center in Gardiner, Montana. These intimate sketches provide a rare window into Moran’s artistic process and give the viewer insight into Moran’s Yellowstone.

Moran received an assignment as a painter on the first official expedition into Yellowstone, the Hayden Expedition of 1871. Upon seeing Yellowstone with his own eyes, Moran and his fellow explorers on the expedition struggled for words to describe the breathtaking scenes of “transcendent beauty.” This phrase comes directly from Moran’s own writings and serves as the inspiration for this exhibition.

“The earlier descriptions of Yellowstone sounded like science fiction to anyone who lived in the east,” says Tammi Hanawalt, Curator of Art at NMWA. “By Moran returning from Yellowstone with his sketches and paintings, he made it real, and helped people realize Yellowstone was a truly unique place that needed to be protected.”

Moran cemented his connection to Yellowstone by adopting the nickname Thomas “Yellowstone” Moran, signing his works with the related monogram “TYM” after 1872. He last visited Yellowstone in the 1920s, shortly before he died, and wrote in a diary of his expedition. The original diary is part of Yellowstone National Park’s museum and archives and will be included in this exhibition. The exhibition will also feature interactive digital watercolor stations, where visitors can try their hand at depicting Yellowstone’s unbelievable landscapes.

This exhibition is made possible through the generous sponsorship of Howell A. and Ann M. Breedlove Charitable Foundation, Thomas and Elizabeth Grainger Family Charitable Fund, Carole Hummel, Carol and Jim Linton, Long Reimer Winegar, Anne and Michael Moran, Bill Newton, Maggie and Dick Scarlett Endowment (in honor of Bill and Joffa Kerr), Charlotte Stifel, and the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund.