Moran, Mary Nimmo (1842–1899)

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Moran, Mary Nimmo (1842–1899)

American landscape etching artist. Name variations: Mary Nimmo. Born on May 16, 1842, in Strathaven, Lanarkshire, Scotland; died of typhoid fever on September 25, 1899, in East Hampton, New York; only daughter of Archibald Nimmo (a weaver) and Mary Nimmo; received grammar school education; married Thomas Moran (an artist), in 1862; children: Paul Nimmo Moran (b. 1867); Mary Scott Moran; Ruth Bedford Moran.

Selected works:

Evening, East Hampton; Bridge Over the Delaware; Newark From the Meadows; The Goose Pond; An Old Homestead; Florida Forest; Between the Gloaming and the Murk; and Conway Castle, Wales.

Born in Scotland on May 16, 1842, Mary Moran emigrated to the United States at the age of five, with her brother and widowed father. The family settled in Crescentville, Pennsylvania, where she received a grammar school education. When she was 16, she met Thomas Moran, an artist who would later gain fame for his Western scenes (his 1872 panorama The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone would be purchased for $10,000 by Congress and installed in the Capitol). They were married four years later, in the summer of 1862, and lived in Philadelphia.

After their marriage, Moran's husband taught her to paint with oils and watercolors, and her talent was such that she soon exhibited some of her work at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and at the National Academy of Design in New York City. In 1867, after the birth of their first child, the Moran family traveled throughout France, Italy, and Switzerland, finding time to study art, visit galleries and museums, and meet the great French artist Camille Corot. They returned to the United States and established a home in Newark, New Jersey. Moran and her husband often sketched the surrounding countryside, and some of her best pictures are of this area (such as Newark From the Meadows, c. 1880). In the early 1870s, she toured the West with her husband, after which failing health usually prevented her from traveling with him. As Thomas Moran was about to leave on another trip to the Grand Tetons in 1879, he suggested that she try etching, which was much in vogue at the time.

Moran traveled to Easton, Pennsylvania, where she etched plates directly from nature, in a bold, free style. Upon his return, Thomas was so impressed with his wife's work that he submitted four of her plates to the New York Etching Club for an exhibition. They were accepted and in 1880 "M. Nimmo" was elected into the club. (She would later sign her etchings "M. Nimmo Moran" or "M.N.M.") Moran also exhibited etchings in Boston, and in 1881 she was invited to exhibit with the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers in London. Both she and her husband received certificates from Queen Victoria , and she was named a member of the Royal Society as well. A trip to Great Britain in 1882 provided her with more artistic material, and she portrayed many English and Scottish scenes. Working at a furious pace during the 1880s, Moran became the foremost American woman in the etching field. Among her subjects were views of East Hampton, Long Island, where the Morans built a summer home in 1884, as well as New York City, the Pennsylvania hills, and the subtropical forests of Florida, which she visited twice. By 1889, she had etched nearly 70 plates. At the zenith of her career in 1893, she received a diploma and a medal for her etchings at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The public's love of etchings eventually declined, however, and with it the demand for her work. She did few plates in her later years. In 1899, exhausted from nursing her daughter Ruth through typhoid fever, Mary Moran died of the same disease at the family's home in East Hampton, at age 57.


James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971.

McHenry, Robert, ed. Famous American Women. NY: Dover, 1980.

Rubinstein, Charlotte Streifer. American Women Artists. Avon, 1982.

suggested reading:

Everett, Morris T. "The Etchings of Mrs. Mary Nimmo Moran," in Brush and Pencil. April 1901.

Gerdts, William H. Museum (Newark, New Jersey). Spring–summer 1963, p. 24.

Trumble, Alfred. Thomas Moran, N.A. (and) Mary Nimmo Moran. Pamphlet, 1889.

Van Rensselaer, Mariana G. "American Etchers," in Century. February 1883.


Paintings by Mary Nimmo Moran are held by the Newark (New Jersey) Museum, the East Hampton Free Library, and the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis. Collections of her etchings are at the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, the East Hampton Free Library, Guild Hall in East Hampton, the Graphic Arts Division of the Smithsonian Institution, and the Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont