The Autry Welcomes Back Thomas Moran’s “Mountain of the Holy Cross”
The artist Thomas Moran’s famous painting, Mountain of the Holy Cross, recently returned to the Autry following a year of travels with two separate exhibitions about the impact of the Western landscape. It was reinstalled in the Autry’s Romance Gallery on Feb. 22.
The historic painting, one of the Autry’s most important acquisitions, was part of the Yale Center for British Art’s Endless Forms: Charles Darwin, Natural Science and the Visual Arts from February to May 2009. Then it went to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and Vancouver Art Gallery from June 2009 to January 2010 as part of Expanding Horizons: American and Canadian Paintings & Photography: 1860–1918.
“This remarkable painting is our most important work,” said John Gray, President and CEO of the Autry National Center. “We have a duty to share it with public, not only at the Autry but also across the country and internationally.”
Finished in 1875 following the artist’s third trip to the West, Mountain of the Holy Cross was widely exhibited in the eastern United States before becoming part of the collection of William Bell, an Irish-born physician and railroad developer who installed it in his home near Manitou Springs, Colorado. Bell was a founding partner of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. The Moran painting — like the legendary site it depicts — lured tourists and travelers to Bell’s home and cultivated the idea of the Western landscape as a mythical place and a divine creation.
The painting was a 1991 gift to the Autry by its founders, Mr. and Mrs. Gene Autry.
“(It) is the centerpiece of our art collection,” said Amy Scott, Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross Curator of Visual Arts at the Autry. “It absolutely embodies cultural thinking about the West at the time of its creation: that the West was monumental and grand, and the natural destination of the American people as the heirs of the New World.”