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Green River Cliffs, Wyoming, 1881

Thomas Moran

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, Gift of the Milligan and Thomson Families

oil on canvas

In 1871, Thomas Moran traveled to the western frontier to illustrate a magazine article describing a wondrous region in Wyoming called Yellowstone. Before he reached the land of geysers and hot springs, he stepped off the train in Green River, Wyoming, and discovered a landscape unlike any he had ever seen. Rising above the dusty railroad town were towering cliffs, reduced by nature to their geologic essence. Moran completed watercolors of Yellowstone that would later play a key role in the Congressional decision to designate the region as America's first national park, but he turned repeatedly to the western landscape he saw first—the magnificent cliffs of Green River.