Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone a favorite for artists over years

August 13, 2009, 1:38 pm

Artistic depictions of geysers, rivers and other water features in Yellowstone National Park have influenced public perceptions of the West, helped create a regional tourism industry and even sold soda pop.

"Artists have been inspired by Yellowstone since before it became a national park in 1872, and they continue to be inspired today," said Christine Brindza, acting curator of the Whitney Gallery of Western Art.

Brindza recently gave an overview of how artists have interpreted the park's geothermal features, waterfalls and other attractions during a presentation at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

Artistic depictions of the park have evolved from a romantic view that was popular more than 100 years ago to contemporary works that offer a more intimate and realistic take on nature, she said.

In the early 1800s, explorers and trappers returned from what is now Yellowstone with fantastic stories of indescribable scenery and a land that was literally churning with heat and energy.

"They would come across these areas that had hot springs or geysers and it seemed like hell was just bubbling out of the earth," Brindza said, adding that scientific expeditions were later organized to study the strange landscapes.

"The artist Thomas Moran came with the Hayden expedition in 1871, and it was the first time that an artist and a photographer came to the area and could capture the same sights around them," she said.

Though Moran said that it was "with a sort of regretful enthusiasm that these beautiful tints are beyond the reach of human art," his 84-square-foot "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone" was an immediate public sensation.