Moran’s ‘Mountain Lion in Grand Canyon’
CALENDAR COMPANY REPRODUCED MASTER’S 1914 OIL ON CANVAS AS LARGE-SCALE COLOR PRINT
By Mary Adair Dockery
Thomas Moran continues to hold the title of visual architect of the dramatic Western landscape, capturing the imagination of America at the turn of the century and helping to inspire the creation of the National Park system.
During the 1910s, Moran revisited his favorite subjects from prior decades, including Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion and especially the Grand Canyon. A masterwork from 1914, Mountain Lion in Grand Canyon epitomizes Moran’s technique of romanticizing landscape elements to evoke the sublimity of nature.
Here, dual sentinels – a purplish peak on the left and intertwined pines on the right – tower above a mountain lion’s lair. The mountain lion, a rare instance of wildlife in a Moran painting, embodies the delicate mix of beauty, danger and possibility, which defined the period’s vision of the unique character of the American West, says Heritage Auctions Senior Vice President Ed Jaster.
Moran, who partnered with advertisers throughout his career, evidently held the painting in high esteem, as he had a leading art calendar manufacturer, Osborne and Co., reproduce it in 1915 as a large-scale color print.
The painting’s provenance, tracing back to the incomparable Western art collector Thomas Gilcrease, further underscores its importance within Moran’s oeuvre. Although Gilcrease donated the majority of his collection to his eponymous museum in Tulsa, Okla., he kept Mountain Lion in Grand Canyon for himself, ultimately gifting it to his daughter, Des Cygne. The painting has remained in the family of Des Cygne’s husband, the late Corwin D. Denney, a Gilcrease Museum board member and philanthropist in his own right.
“The more time we spend looking at and researching this painting,” Jaster says, “the more we are impressed by its aesthetic beauty and historical significance.”