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Bridge Over the East Barranca, Cuernavaca, Mexico

On view

Bridge Over the East Barranca, Cuernavaca, Mexico

Artist: Thomas Moran (English, 1837-1926)

Date: 1903
Medium: Oil on canvas, with an original frame
Framed: 18 5/8 x 22 3/4 x 2 1/2 in. (47.3 x 57.8cm)
Overall: 10 3/16 x 14 1/8in. (25.9 x 35.9cm)
Signed: Lower right: 'TM 1903'
Inscribed: Verso of frame (in pencil): 'Dec. 1903'
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 98.6
Label Text
Thomas Moran was famous for his panoramic views of the American West, particularly the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. During his long and productive career, however, he was careful not to limit himself to one successful pictorial formula. He often painted a variety of landscape subjects in order to vary the range of material he offered to the public. In 1903, for example, he traveled to Mexico, where he had not been for twenty years. He made a number of sketches that spring in the area around the city of Cuernavaca, which is located in south central Mexico near Mexico City. Moran used these sketches for several Mexican subjects he painted that summer in his studio in Easthampton, Long Island. One of these, a canvas 10 x 12 inches, is listed in his ledger book with the title, "Bridge over the East Baranca, Cuernavaca, Mexico." Another notation immediately below this inscription reads, "Sent to Utica. . . March 1904." Sometime before this date the Utica artist George W. King (1836-1922) invited Moran to send several examples of his work to Utica for a local art exhibition that was being organized to benefit the Utica Exchange for Woman's Work. The exhibition took place at the Utica City National Bank Building in April of 1904. The Cuernavaca painting was purchased at the exhibition by a local Utica family in whose possession it remained for nearly one hundred years before the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute acquired it. Its lively, rococo style frame, with a paper label on the back indicating that it was made by the New York City frame maker John Schullian, was presumably added to the work before it was shipped to Utica. The frame is in excellent condition and retains its original gilded finish.


Around 1830, American frame makers began using ornamentation that was first popular in France around the time of Louis XIV's death in 1715. Called rococo (from the French word rocaille, meaning rock work), this decorative style featured asymmetrical arrangements of curves and counter-curves, cabochons, shells, and floral and leaf patterns. The popularity of these design elements in the 19th century is known as the Rococo Revival. This was the United State's century's earliest, most popular and long-lasting revivalist style.

A note in Moran's diary indicates that he made this painting in East Hampton, Long Island during the summer of 1903. A label on the back of the frame indicates that John Schullian of New York City framed the picture. In the spring of 1904, Moran shipped the work to Utica for display in a benefit exhibition of an organization called the Utica Exchange for Woman's Work. A local collector purchased it at the exhibition and it descended in that family until it was acquired by the Museum. The frame is in excellent condition and retains its original bright gold finish. Schullian used the techniques of water gilding and burnishing to create shiny surfaces on the large scroll forms along the prominent outer edge of the frame, as well as the inner cove and sight edge. He created the contrasting, dull surfaces with oil gilding.

Paul D. Schweizer
August 2010

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