Etching, 16 1/2" x 23"
Illinois State Museum collection
This scene shows how hay mowing was done before the steam tractor came along. It also shows the vast, flat land that was the prairie that had been transformed by the settlers into farm fields. The delicate lines of the etching give a fine texture to the image. The slightly low horizon line emphasizes the empty sky and the small number of trees.
Peter Moran came from a family artists. His brothers Edward and Thomas were painters and etchers, and a sister-in-law, Mary Nimmo Moran, was an etcher. Peter was born in England and came to the United States at the age of three. He trained in a lithographic shop, but did not like it. He decided to become an artist, and admired animal painters like the famous Edwin Landseer. Later he became very interested in scenes of the wild west as it was being settled. He learned etching, and became one of the best in the country. He was president of the Philadelphia Society of Etchers.
Etching is a printing process in which the artist scratches a design in reverse into a metal plat covered with a waxy substance. Then the plate is dipped in an acid that eats away a little of the metal through the scratches. Ink is rolled onto the plate, sinking into the scratches, and getting wiped off the surface. It is then printed onto paper in a press that pushes paper into the ink.