In the spring of 1861, Thomas Moran and his three brothers went on a sketching and photography expedition to Catawissa, a small town on the Susquehanna River in the mountainous region of northeastern Pennsylvania. Thomas, who was also trained as an engraver, translated his sketches into illustrations for a travelogue that praised the Catawissa Railroad route as a picturesque touring itinerary. He also used his studies and, perhaps, his brother John's photographs, to develop subjects for oil paintings of the region.
One year later, Moran exhibited a work entitled Valley of the Catawissa in Autumn-a painting that was only recently rediscovered in a private collection in Northwest Arkansas. Taking artistic liberties, Moran omitted the railroad and translated the original spring scene into a splendid panorama of autumnal mountain wilderness. The painting demonstrates his early mastery of the American landscape tradition, characterized by topographical specificity infused with poetic vision.