Born in Bolton, Lancashire, England, Peter Moran emigrated to America with his family in 1844 and settled in Maryland. He trained with his older brothers, Edward and Thomas, who also became artists. In 1863 he studied in London for one year, and on his return settled in Philadelphia, where he spent the remainder of his life.
Known as a painter and engraver, Moran specialized in landscapes and scenes of animals. In 1877 his prints were among the very first purchased for reproduction by an American commercial publisher. Moran traveled extensively, visiting New Mexico in 1864, the Tetons in 1879, and Arizona and New Mexico in the 1880s. He exhibited his works widely along the Eastern Seaboard, winning medals at shows in 1876 and 1902.
The Gallery's fine impression of The Ploughman contains many of the features that typified Moran's art. Of particular interest is the representation of the different textures of the field, the sky, the ploughman's clothing, and the feathers of the chickens. The slightly off-center placement of the farmer and horse and the seemingly random arrangement of the chickens lends the scene a naturalistic feeling that belies its deliberate organization.
[This is an excerpt from the interactive companion program to the videodisc American Art from the National Gallery of Art. Produced by the Department of Education Resources, this teaching resource is one of the Gallery's free-loan educational programs.]