Critical Analysis of Thomas Moran’s Landscape Paintings and Pictures


Within Moran’s landscapes, I notice he often includes tamed vegetation, forests, woodlands, mountains and bodies of water.

I believe therefore that Moran painted in a romantic abstract style.

I consider Moran to have been a romantic or imaginative painter, as depth, mood and light are the most important elements of his works.

I also see Moran as having been a bit of a realistic painter, endeavouring to construct illusionistic space within his paintings.

In other words, Moran seemingly has tried to make a landscape appear three-dimensional because by doing so it renders his paintings as scenes that seem to have spatial depth that recedes away from the picture plane and into an evoke distance.

In addition, I am aware that two factors distinguish romantic realism as a style and they are mood and light.

I believe that the quality of light in Moran’s works contributes to what makes his paintings readily identifiable.

This quality amounts to clouds parting to reveal the sun illuminating a landscape.

Frequently, warm light glows from between the trees and gaps in the mountains scenes.

I believe that Moran’s illumination of landscapes seems at once dramatic and emotion-laden; for example, light comes both as a natural effect and because of comfortable animal habitation in the scenes.

Additionally, Moran tries to create a specific mood in his paintings through colour.

Often, the mood is romantic and sentimental because Moran used many pastel colours.

The overall tone in Moran’s works seems to be planned to be cheerful – light, bright and pleasant.

The mood involves serenity too, as the elements together evoke harmony.

What I believe Moran does best is that he was able to create dramatic representations of landscapes.

Within his paintings the illusion of deep space is rendered so realistically, their presentations of landscapes appeal as scenes belonging to a world that a viewer can enter.

Moreover, Moran has tried hard to organise the space and provide features that a viewer can imagine.

Moran’s landscapes are also clever in that he has avoided including specific types of people (deep xrays of his paintings have shown that in his initial sketch there are people – namely North American Indians), he has therefore avoided providing an avatar, an image that stands in for the viewer, including characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic level.

Because Moran decided not to add people, I believe anyone can mentally tranverse the pathways of his works without fear.

The representation of the world around us as a dramatic place using mood, light and depth of the romantic style I believe exhibits the grandeur of nature.

Furthermore (as per his commission), Moran’s work is intended to allow the viewer to feel awe at the natural scene depicted and therefore will wish to make plans to visit in person.

An additional purpose of Moran’s work involves the therapeutic.

The intent of Moran’s work was to provide hope to people in despair.

Correspondingly, by imagining the paintings as a window into a real world without cities, smog, overcrowding and despair, but more a place beautiful, serene and harmonious the viewers of Moran’s works are able to metaphorically enter and thereby escape the pressures and stresses of their everyday life.

This perception occurs in Moran’s works because (as per his Railroad commissions), he attempted to deliver scenes that do not have a specific character as the focus, scenes in which the viewers can imagine themselves as the main character of that beautiful world.

Moran’s works convey a message that his work is not only the beauty of nature, but also a message that the viewer can escape any unpleasant aspects of life by gazing into this work of art.


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