Edward Moran 1829-1901

Off Sandy Hook

  • 20 x 16 inches (50.8 x 40.6 cm)
  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower left: Edw. Moran

Why We Love It

Off Sandy Hook captures the drama of the storm and the devastating effects it had on the fleet of ships that unfortunately crossed its path. The awesome power of nature is readily apparent, and Moran renders it with both drama and precision.

The Value

Marine paintings such as this one are highly collectible. Edward Moran enjoyed a fine reputation during his lifetime. His scenes of New York Harbor and its surrounds are his most sought after works. This example, with the high drama of the stormy sea, is in excellent condition and has its original frame.

Artist Background

1829: Born in Bolton, Lancashire, England. His younger brother was the painter Thomas Moran; 1844: Immigrated to the United States with his family and settled in Maryland; 1857: Established as an artist in Philadelphia. Influenced by James Hamilton, a prominent marine painter, and Paul Weber, a landscapist; 1862: Traveled to England with his brother Thomas. Saw and copied the work of J.M.W. Turner, who became hugely influential for both Morans; 1872: Moved to New York City. Spent the rest of his career there, primarily painting seascapes; 1879-80: Visited Paris; 1890s: Dedicated himself to working on 13 paintings of important epochs in U.S. marine history. They were widely exhibited, but failed to sell. They were given to the New York Public Library; 1901: Died.

In Off Sandy Hook, Edward Moran deftly captures the drama of the storm and the devastating effects it had on the fleet of ships that unfortunately crossed its path.  Stylistically, the painting exhibits the careful details and truth to nature that marked Moran’s oeuvre.  Psychologically, the danger and destruction of the storm create a profound sense of tension.  The viewer identifies with the sailors on the one ship as they are dwarfed by the roiling waves and imposing sky.  The awesome power of nature is readily apparent, and Moran renders it with both drama and precision.

Edward Moran was the eldest brother of the painter Thomas Moran.  He was born in England and immigrated to Maryland in 1844.  Shortly thereafter he moved to Philadelphia to work in a cotton factory.  The owner of the factory was impressed with Moran’s sketches, which covered the machines and walls of the plant, and encouraged him to pursue a career as an artist.   Moran began his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, but in 1847 he and his brother Thomas returned to England to further pursue their artistic training.  Edward came back to Philadelphia and began his career as a professional artist in the 1850s.  In 1872 he settled in New York City, where he spent the remainder of his life.

While Moran was in Philadelphia the city was the center of the United States’ clipper ship production, and the artist drew inspiration from the industry.  Moran also came under the influence of James Hamilton, a prominent Irish-born marine painter known for his silvery tones and loose accents of light.  Through Hamilton and his own study abroad, Moran developed a style based primarily on English painting of the seventeen and eighteenth centuries and seventeenth-century Dutch painting.

Moran saw a distinction between decorative and scientific marine painters and aligned himself with the latter.  He believed the decorative painters achieved handsome effects in their work at the expense of fidelity, and instead Moran concentrated on the value gained from scientific knowledge and went so far as to recommend the use of a portable camera.  Thus, even though Moran admired the dramatic effects of such artists as J.M.W Turner, he forwent the use atmospheric haze and chose to paint his scenes with refinement and precision, as evidenced in Off Sandy Hook. The crystalline light and attention to detail mark Moran’s distinctive style and mastery of the medium.