country that lay west beyond the Mississippi River. Because the camera was
not available in a portable form until
2 the only way to get colorful
images of the western territories back to
the people on the east coast of the U.S.
was to have artists paint canvases and
ship them back. Therefore, artists from
the Hudson River School, a loose collection of like-minded landscape painters
on the east coast, were often invited to
join various expeditions.
Some of the most notable artists from
this Westward Expansion were Albert
Beirstadt and Thomas Moran. Albert
Beirstadt was born in Germany in 1830,
and his family moved to New England
when Albert was just a young child.
Beirstadt did return to Germany to study
drawing and painting in his twenties. In
1859, after a few years as a painter in the
eastern part of the U.S., Beirstadt traveled west to join the expedition of Frederic Lander, a U.S. government surveyor.
This was the first of many westbound
journeys that Beirstadt would take as
part of an expedition team. His grand,
oversized paintings brought the beauty
of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the
Yosemite Valley not only to Americans
but also to the rest of the world. Beirstadt
was proud to be an immigrant who loved
his new country and wanted to show off
her natural wonders. Beirstadt painted
more than five hundred canvases in his
lifetime, and some suggest he may have
done thousands more!
Thomas Moran was born in England in 1837, but his family moved to
Pennsylvania when Moran was a child.
After his primary schooling, Moran
became apprenticed as an engraver and
thus started his artistic career alongside
his brother in a printing shop. On his
own, Moran started painting landscapes
of the Philadelphia area and even traveled back to England to explore the work
of other landscape artists whom he ad-
The only way to get
colorful images of the
back to the people
on the east coast of
the U.S. was to have
artists paint canvases
and ship them back.
mired. When he returned to America,
he worked for Scribner’s magazine in
Philadelphia as an engraver, but his life
changed in 1871 when he was invited to
go on a geological expedition to the Yel-
4 For the first time,
he got to see the majesty of the American
West and was overcome. Moran traveled
along with a photographer to catalog the
vistas and would complete field sketches
in oils or watercolor to prepare for larg-
er canvases he would complete once he
returned to his studio.
Moran . . . would
sketches in oils
to prepare for
larger canvases he
once he returned
to his studio.
Thomas Moran’s Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone