Thomas Moran’s 1899 oil painting captures a brilliant Western landscape, including a Native American cliff village. Originally referred to as the Grand Canyon, the piece was considered to be a glimpse into the uncharted West; later research placed the scene in Mesa Verde, CO, presumably depicting Anasazi dwellings. The Cliff Dwellers was one of many within a collection of Moran’s landscapes showcasing the pueblos and cliff dwellings of the American southwest. During the late 1800s, Thomas Moran was commissioned by the US Government to travel westward and record his findings. He spent much of those trips collecting sketches and photographs and upon his return crafted rich oil paintings. In this particular piece, Moran includes human subjects — a rarity for a man who had come to be known for his robust landscapes. In responses to changes in the art market, Moran reportedly commented, “I prefer to paint western scenes, but the Eastern people don’t appreciate the grand scenery of the Rockies. They are not familiar with mountains effects and it is much easier to sell a picture of a Long Island swamp than the grandest picture of Colorado.” The Cliff Dwellers was donated to Berea College, by Olivia Phelps-Stokes only six years after its completion. It has been loaned both nationally and internationally, and continues to attract the attention of art connoisseurs.
-Haley Boothe, Class of 2016
Thomas Moran, 1837-1926
20" x 29"
Oil on canvas
"The World of Theodore Roosevelt," Nassau County Museum of Art, November 17, 2002 - February 16, 2003. "Colorado Landscapes and the New Age of Discovery," Loveland Museum/Gallery, November 3, 2001 - January 6, 2002. "1900: Art at the Crossroads," Royal Academy of Arts, London: January 16 - April 3, 2000 Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum: May 18 - September 13, 2000. "Thomas Moran," National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., September 28, 1997 - January 11, 1998 Gilcrease Museum, February 8 - May 10, 1998 Seattle Art Museum, June 19 - August 30,1998 "Thomas Moran: A Search for the Scenic - His Landscape Paintings of the American West, East Hampton, and Venice," Guild Hall Museum, November 29, 1980 - January 25, 1981. On display in Karl Warming's (Business Vice President) office, 1977. "Kentucky Colleges Collect: An Exhibition Selected from the Collections of Independent Colleges in the State of Kentucky," University of Kentucky Art Gallery, October 29 - November 22, 1972. By July 1909 the painting was on display in the "Ladies Hall Parlor," according to the Berea Quarterly, Vol. 8, Issue 2, July 1909, p. 39. Publications: Laurie Beth Kalb. Intellectual Vigor, Gilded Age, Privilege, and Institutional Coming of Age: The Alfred and Madeline Kidder Southwest Pottery Collection. Cambridge, MA: Peabody Museum Press, Harvard University, 2013. Jeffrey Brand-Ballard. Limits of Legality: The Ethics of Lawless Judging. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. (cover/dust jacket/promotional image) Requested for cover and interior reproduction, Don Scheese. The Allure of the Anasazi: Representations of Ancestral Puebloans in Art & Architecture, 2006. (Publication cancelled) Constance Schwartz and Franklin Hill Perrell. The World of Theodore Roosevelt: November 17, 2002 - Feburary 16, 2003. Roslyn Harbor, NY: Nassau County Museum of Art, 2002. (reproduced p. 35). Doug Erion et al. Colorado Landscapes and the New Age of Discovery. Loveland, CO: Loveland Museum/Gallery, 2001. (reproduced p. 89) Robert Rosenblum et al. 1900: Art At the Crossroads. London: Royal Academy of the Arts, 2000. (cat. no. 202 - also reproduced for a set of selected educational slides from the exhibition, produced by the Courtauld Colour Slide Scheme, 2000.) Reproduced in the pamphlet "Treasures of the Forgotten: Mysteries from the Vault - Berea College Summer Undergraduate Research on the History of the Art Department Collection" by Maggie Park and Steven Coles. Reproduced in the Seattle Art Museum's June/July/August 1998 Program Guide, p. 2, in conjunction with the exhibition "Thomas Moran" organized by the National Gallery of Art, 1997-1998. Nancy K. Anderson. Thomas Moran. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1997. (Also reproduced in a wall calendar, a boxed set of note cards, and individual note cards in conjunction with the exhibition and on the Boeing and Seattle Art Museum websites to promote the show and permission was extended in 1999 to be used in a 150th anniversary web feature for the Department of the Interior.) Phyllis Braff. Thomas Moran: A Search for the Scenic - His Landscape Paintings of the American West, East Hampton, and Venice. East Hampton, NY: Guild Hall Museum, 1980. (reproduced p. 17 as "Grand Canyon") Kentucky Colleges Collect: An Exhibition Selected from the Collections of Independent Colleges in the State of Kentucky. University of Kentucky Art Gallery, October 29 - November 22, 1972. (reproduced as cat. no. 57, "The Grand Canyon")
Gift of Olivia Phelps-Stokes, 1903