Despite Moran’s wider fame Holmes was no minor artist. William Goetzmann calls him “the greatest artist-topographer and man of many talents that the West ever produced…his artistic technique was like no others. He could sketch panoramas of twisted mountain ranges, sloping monoclines, escarpments, plateaus, canyons, fault blocks, and grassy meadows that accurately depicted hundreds of miles of terrain. They were better than maps and better than photographs because he could get details of stratigraphy that light and shadow obscured from the camera…his illustrations for Dutton’s Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District are masterpieces of realism and draftsmanship as well as feats of imaginative observation.” Holmes was the official artist on the Dutton geological exploration of the Grand Canyon and his views are most noted for their realism of the magnificent scenery. He exhibited at the The Art Institute of Chicago, the National Academy of Design and The Brooklyn Art Club among others. He later held the position as Curator at the University of Chicago (1898-1906) and was a Director of the National Academy of Design (1920-1932).
Thomas Moran’s transfixing work is entitled ‘The Transept, Kaibab Division, Grand Cañon. An Amphitheater of the Second Order.’ This work is sheet XVIII in the work and is drawn after the Moran’s monumental paining of the same name. Together these four plates make this work one of the most sought after relating to the American West, they are often found to be missing from this work.
Amongst the scientific team on the exploration was the photographer Jack Hilliers. Although the survey was strictly scientific Dutton writes in the preface “I have in many places departed from the severe ascetic style which has become conventional in scientific monographs.” This clearly extended to the artists Holmes and Moran who were clearly inspired also by the majesty of the region. The book’s standing is so great that it is still considered the preeminent work on the Grand Canyon. The remainder of the work is supplied by the engraver Julius Bien. “One of the greatest, if not the very greatest of all Grand Canyon books. The atlas, containing the superb panoramic views by William H. Holmes and a drawing by Thomas Moran, is a rich portfolio of art as well as a collection of maps and an exposition of geology” (Farquhar). Provenance: private English collection. Francis P. Farquhar, ‘The Books of the Colorado River & the Grand Canyon’ (Los Angeles: 1953) 73; Goetzmann, ‘Exploration and Empire’ pp. 512-13; Reese, W. B. & G. A. Miles ‘Creating America’ (New Haven: 1992) 40.
Atlas to Accompany the Monograph of the Tertiary History of the Grand Cañon District