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Conway Castle will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work by Stephen Good and Phyllis Braff.

According to Phyllis Braff, co-editor of the Thomas Moran Catalogue Raisonné Project, “While castle themes and their relationship to a surrounding landscape interested Thomas Moran throughout his long career, it was historic Conwy Castle, in Wales, that he turned to most frequently as a particularly resonant example of a turreted stone palace in the countryside. This symbolic subject echoed grand European pictorial traditions yet at the same time referenced both monumentality and the significance of travel—ideas that were important to Moran.

“In 1878 the artist acquired a painting of the castle by the English master he most admired, J. M. W. Turner. The following year he used the image for his first large, ambitious etching—a print praised by critic John Ruskin when Moran brought it to London in 1882. Moran visited Wales and the castle site in mid-September that year, making sketches he later used in composing new Conwy themes, including this carefully developed 1889 watercolor.

“The work falls within a period when Moran was particularly active in the American Water Color Society, exhibiting with the group regularly and serving on its board of directors. Moran’s success with the medium was widely recognized and commented upon in the press. His ability to achieve freshness and sparkle was often cited. As in Conwy Castle, 1889, he frequently built in a radiant glow, using, in part, the natural illumination of the paper.

“Moran brought many of the characteristics of his major oils to this Conwy watercolor, including evocative natural elements; subtly articulated clouds; nuanced tonal qualities along a mountainous horizon line; and most significantly, a feeling of great visual depth through the effective design of foreground, middleground, and distance. The dramatic light, reflecting from the ancient castle walls, is also characteristic of Moran’s most distinguished work.”

Philip S. Van Cise, circa 1910-20
Eleanor Van Cise Drake (his daughter), by descent
Present owner, by descent

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