Watercolor and gouache
Support: Light brown wove paper
Sheet: 24 x 31.8 cm (9 7/16 x 12 1/2 in.)
Bequest of Mrs. Henry A. Everett for the Dorothy Burnham Everett Memorial Collection 1938.56
Moran sketched this image while waiting for his travel arrangements to be resolved, having learned that he received a commission for a large painting of Wyoming for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
For today's viewers of Thomas Moran’s watercolor, the sight of factory smoke pouring into pristine mountain air might prophesy environmental ruin. Yet within the context of America’s western expansion, the imagery of factories was more ambiguous. Some in Moran's time regarded the factories as a force of destruction, while others interpreted them as symbols of progress. Moran himself viewed Denver’s budding industry with enthusiasm, writing positively to his wife about the city’s growth since he first visited while part of a government survey in 1873. Two decades later, when Moran returned to Denver to paint advertisements for the Santa Fe Railroad, smelting—the extraction of metal from heated rock—had transformed the city into an industrial hub. Although the brooding tone of this watercolor is unlike the artist’s bright, misty-eyed paintings of Edenic splendor, his depiction of the west’s emerging industrial landscape reinforces the same myth of manifest destiny—the belief that settler conquest of Native American lands was inevitable and justified—by illustrating the land’s richness in natural resources. Like the English Romantic painter J. M. W. Turner, whose style he emulated, Moran was primarily interested in the pictorial possibilities of industry. In this impressionistic study, Moran manipulates gray wash and white gouache to capture the vaporous quality of smoke and clouds as the two substances, industrial and natural, dissipate into the yellow atmosphere.
The information about this object, including provenance information, is based on historic information and may not be currently accurate or complete. Research on objects is an ongoing process, but the information about this object may not reflect the most current information available to CMA. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email email@example.com.
To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.
Is something not working on this page? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Request a digital file from Image Services that is not available through CC0, a detail image, or any image with a color bar. If you have questions about requesting an image, please email email@example.com.