Thomas Moran was born in 1837 in Bolton, , Lancashire, England on 12 January 1837 --the fifth of seven children.Moran paintings, Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Chasm of the Colorado and Mountain of the Holy Cross became icons of the American Landscape. Moran's father was a handloom weaver. The industrial revolution motivated the family to move to the United States to escape unemployment and poverty. The Moran family settled in Kensington, near Philadelphia.
Thomas Moran’s older brother, Edward, was the first to pursue art and become a successful marine painter. Young Thomas Moran never had any formal training but was influenced by his older brother and his brother’s studio mate, John Hamilton. Thomas Moran began frequenting his brother’s studio by 1855 and accompanied him on sketching trips. In 1862, the brothers returned to England to study the paintings of J.W.M. Turner . Thomas Moran made reproductions of the paintings he saw at the National Gallery, trying to replicate the color and luminosity of Turner.
When Thomas Moran returned to America, he found work as both a fine artist and a commercial illustrator. In 1871, at the request of Scribner’s Magazine, Moran was to redraw an amateur’s sketches of a trip to the Yellowstone region in Wyoming. Based on the unusual terrain in the sketches, Thomas Moran decided to visit Yellowstone for himself. Moran borrowed money so he could accompany a survey party that was returning to the area later that year. The trip so inspired young Moran that he dedicated his life to the depiction of the American West.
Thomas Moran never painted with oils while traveling; instead he preferred to make sketches in watercolor, gouache and pencil and later translate these into his great paintings Moran was not interested in recording nature literally. For Moran, the truth was in his impression of the place. He used all means at his disposal to heighten the effect he was after.
It is believed that Thomas Moran paintings helped to secure Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon as National Parks.
At the turn of the century, Thomas Moran was attacked for being outdated. However, Moran paintings never fell out of favor with the public. Moran enjoyed continued artistic success until his death at the age of ninety.