In 1875 Moran completed the third of his great western landscapes, Mountain of the Holy Cross, a view of a famous Colorado peak with a cross of snow on its side.
In an attempt to capture the "true impression" of the scene rather than a topographical view, Moran freely invented the foreground waterfall in his painting. Forthright about his approach, Moran declared,
"I place no value upon literal transcripts from Nature. My general scope is not realistic; all my tendencies are toward idealization....Topography in art is valueless."