on March 25, 2013
This is a major biography for the serious art historian, student, or artist with a background in history. It greatly exceeded my expectations. The writing moves beautifully, and the reader gains an amazing breadth of the times and British and American culture that surrounded Moran. However, it is deep book, requiring careful reading, as the author assumes that you know other artists well, like Turner, and can understand some obscure words, not commonly used in the 21st century. The author has included a huge bibliography, which is easy to follow. There are only 7 color plates, so one should read this along with a book which includes color plates, or a website, such as the atheneum.org. He often refers to paintings which are not pictured, and this would be frustrating to a reader who did not know Moran's work. The author's descriptions are in depth for many paintings which a regular reader would find distracting. If you are an artist or art historian, however, you would love the verified notes, and the completeness of the research, which will give you insights into your own areas of interest, be it American history or art.
I would have loved to meet the author. He had vision and put together a complete biography with many insights. As a landscape painter, and Art Professor, I am in awe of both Moran, and now of the author Mr. Thurman Wilkins and those who assisted him.
This would be enjoyed by a mature reader, who has also read early American history. It could be used by an upper division student in art history, or American studies or history for a thesis research, or by anyone who would enjoy the truly great story of Thomas Moran. His life would make a fantastic movie: screen writers would LOVE this book. Poor immigrant, hard work, adventures by horse and canoe to unexplored vast wilderness, and of course, his role in the creation of the first National Park in the world, Yellowstone. His life is a movie waiting to be made.
This would NOT be a good book for general reader, for a high school project, or for pictures, as most pictures are black and white, and the text is a dense 314 pages with over 100 pages in notes at the end.
For a very interesting DVD, which explains Moran well, as well as his role in making Yellowstone a park, Drawn to Yellowstone DVD. I have shown it to college students, and it would also be good in sections for high school, or for any group. It was produced by PBS and available from Amazon. You may also like Artist of the West VHS by PBS, which cover Moran, Russell and Remington as artists and also available from Amazon.