Mary Nimmo Moran drew her observations of life in etchings that resulted in her prominence as a great American woman artist of the 19th century. Alfred Moran was a weaver by trade in Strathaven, Scotland. Mary was five years old when her mother died; her father decided to increase his lot in life by moving to the United States. They emigrated to a small town outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1847.
Mary Nimmo Moran Landscape Artist
Her landscape portrayals of scenes in Scotland, England and the United States became depicted the pastoral nature prevalent in the early and mid-1800s. She earned her place as a renowned 19th century artist by diligence and work.
Etchings were not the preferred artist form for most women of Moran’s day. Groucho Marx, the comedian extraordinaire, and others, joke about inviting beautiful women into their digs to view their etchings. But Moran’s perspective is not a joke. She loved the scenes depicted in her work.
The Nimmo family lived next door to the Moran family, English emigrants who were well-known artists. In addition to being exposed to the artists merits of weaving at home, her love of the arts, she shared her enthusiasm for the arts with the Morans.
At 18, Mary Nimmo enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts to study drawing, alongside her neighbor’s son, Thomas Moran, who became a famous artist and illustrator. They continued their classes in art together and eventually fell in love with each other. This is a sweet romance based in a mutual love of art.
Family and Work
Two years later Thomas and Mary married and made their home in Philadelphia. After the births of three children, Mary turned to art again and her husband taught her the fundamentals of etching. This involved etching onto copper plates that were then used to print the etchings on paper. It fired up her imagination and she began her work in that medium.
As with most mothers, Mary Nimmo Moran had her hands full with three children, a husband and home. Her work could only take her to sites near her home so she could remain close to her family.
Early Success for Mary Nimmo Moran
Mary signed her work as M. Nimmo Moran to disguise her gender from potential buyers. Her etchings became a favorite of several prominent people, especially John Ruskin of England. Her fame grew and she joined the Society of Painter Etchers of New York, and the only woman elected to the Fellows of London’s Royal Society of Painters-Etchers.
Mary Nimmo Moran was known for her charming personality and wit as well as her work. She was well-liked, which helped her recognition in a world that tended to elevate only men in their professions. Her devotion to her family and her work gave witness to a life of balance that could be possible for women. Her husband, a successful artist in his own right, encouraged her work and supported her in every way.
The Moran family moved to New Jersey in 1872. A final move to East Hampton, Long Island, New York, made a new life possible for them. Mary founded an artist colony in East Hampton to encourage artists, share ideas, promote the arts, and publicize artists. Her home in East Hampton is now an Historic Land Mark because of the artist colony.
Mary’s work reflects the landscapes near her homes in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and East Hampton. Some of her work depicts landscapes in Scotland and England as well. The diversity of her landscapes helped make her a favorite landscape artist on both sides of the pond.
Mary Nimmo Moran Landscape
Landscape artist and Mother
Etchings on paper and a few rare oil paintings represent the work of Mary Nimmo Moran. There are 70 extant works of hers in private and public collections. Her life work is representative of the best of American landscape artists. The 19th century was a productive and lucrative time for landscape artists. Mary spent her time between family duties and her work, happily bridging the two.
As an inspiration for women artists, Mary shines as a wonderful example. She juggled two aspects of her life and left the world with her children and her work.
Mary caught typhoid fever from her daughter, Ruth, whom she successfully nursed through the disease. She died in 1899 and is buried in East Hampton, Long Island, New York.
Her life is a testament to entwining art and daily living. Let that inspire you and encourage to follow your dreams while having a family you love.
Have a great week!