A painting inspired by Thomas Moran’s sketch of Green River tops Christie’s auction of William Koch’s Western artworks.
Before 34-year-old Thomas Moran reached his ultimate destination of Yellowstone in Wyoming Territory in the summer of 1871, he stepped off the Union Pacific Railroad and viewed the towering cliffs of the Green River. The artist completed a field study that he later inscribed, “First Sketch Made in the West.”
Moran would return to this first Western subject of his many times during his storied career. His 1896 oil of Green River, featuring a troop of American Indians in the lower right, was exhibited at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and appeared at auction for the first time, on May 21, 2015, at Christie’s New York. Not surprisingly, this rare work of art landed the top bid, at $7.5 million.
The painting was sold from the collection of American businessman William Koch, who is most famously known in the Old West collecting arena for paying $2.1 million for the only known photograph of outlaw Billy the Kid. Koch has been collecting Western artworks for an Old West town he hopes to build, but he ran out of room and decided to put some of the treasures on the auction block.