In the spring of 1871 Thomas Moran traveled to the American West for the first time. Immediately upon his return, he began producing the paintings that would change the course of his career. A gifted colorist, Moran was the first artist whose technical expertise matched the wonders of Yellowstone. In 1872 Congress purchased Moran's enormous canvas Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and installed it in the Capitol. Soon Moran began signing his paintings with a creatively configured monogram incorporating three letters (TYM), reflecting his new fame as Thomas "Yellowstone" Moran.
Moran's paintings of Yellowstone and later of the Grand Canyon and the Southwest were so revelatory in terms of wondrous geologic formations and astonishing color that they soon overshadowed all his previous work. Only recently have the remarkable eastern landscapes that Moran created before he journeyed west garnered the attention they deserve. The Juniata, Evening is one of the most beautiful and important of these works.
Born in Bolton, England, raised in Philadelphia, Moran returned to his homeland in 1862 to study works by the artist he revered above all others—J.M.W. Turner. For several months he retraced Turner's path through England and France sketching the landscapes that had inspired the English master. Steeped in the writings of John Ruskin, Turner's early champion, Moran returned to Philadelphia and began producing a series of stunningly beautiful landscapes of the Pennsylvania countryside. Taking to heart Turner's example and Ruskin's advice (study nature carefully and reproduce her wonders accurately), Moran spent weeks sketching in the forests surrounding Philadelphia.
In the summer of 1864 he ventured farther, traveling to central Pennsylvania where the Juniata River, a major tributary of the Susquehanna, flows through lush meadows and steep sandstone cliffs. Moran's painting of the valley is filled with closely observed detail: grazing sheep, farm dwellings, distant smoke, a lone traveler, and most remarkably, a foreground vignette of an artist (possibly a self-portrait) with a painting on his easel duplicating the scene before the viewer.
Completed in September 1864, The Juniata, Evening was purchased—perhaps commissioned—by George Frederick Tyler, a Philadelphia banker and railroad executive. Moran signed and dated the painting in the lower left corner, placing the notation "Op 8" beneath his name. One year earlier he had begun numbering his studio paintings and recording key information about them on an "Opus List." Several pages of Moran's list survive including his notation for "Opus 8" The Juniata, Evening. Thus the completion date and first owner of the painting are known as well as the original purchase price: $200.
lower left: THOS.MORAN.1864 / OP.8.
Purchased, and possibly commissioned, 1864 by George Frederick Tyler, Philadelphia. Spears collection. (Henry Schultheis Co., New York); (sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 24 February 1938, no. 35, as Western Landscape); P. Kachurn. private collection, from the 1960s; acquired by Mrs. Kachurian; gift to her son, Leon Kachurian; acquired September 1998 by (Gerald Peters Gallery, Santa Fe); sold 1998 to Vern Milligan [d. 2012], Denver; purchased 26 October 2010 by NGA.
- East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography, National Gallery of Art, Washington; New Orleans Museum of Art, 2017-2018, no. 80, repro.