John H. Moran, photo courtesy John Moran Auctioneers

Hearts were heavy across the fine art landscape this week after it was announced that John H. Moran (1942-2017) — founder of John Moran Auctioneers — passed away on October 3. We take a moment here to honor his legacy.

Via Jeff Moran, son of John H. Moran:

Dear Friends,

It is with a heavy and saddened heart I bear the news that on October 3rd, our founder, president, and friend peacefully departed on his next voyage — which, in true fashion, was during of one of the most successful auctions in our company’s history.

The Moran Family has received such an outpouring of support from friends and clients alike, I feel compelled here to express our deepest gratitude and with that, it is important to me to reciprocate with some important insights about my father.

The beauty of the auction business is that we get to handle, research, photograph, conserve and sell an unbelievable amount of interesting property each year which requires concentrated focus all the time. You need to have a burning passion for this business, and I can assure you that we do, as he did. Working alongside him over the years, my father reminded me that we are only the temporary custodians of our most prized possessions. This idea helps put things into perspective when dealing with the acquisitive nature of the art and antiques business.

John H. Moran, photo courtesy John Moran Auctioneers

Yet for my dad, it seems the scales were tipped inversely. We ran an auction business, but the people were often more interesting than their stuff! I remember my father would come home from work and say over dinner, “I met the most interesting gentleman today,” and he would proceed to share a tale about this person’s life story. Some stories were more riveting than others but most earned dinner table merit. One fellow in particular I remember hearing about, then meeting, was Walter. This man had inherited a sizable trust but preferred the simpler life of a 21st-century hobo. We eventually sold the contents of his parent’s estate, but he could not wait to be done with the excruciating process of dismantling his childhood. My dad and I sat and listened to Walter for hours, as this tall and quiet man, who resembled a figure in a Thomas Hart Benton painting, went on to describe his adventures (and misadventures) whilst jumping on and off trains for the last 20 years across the U.S. We all laughed together and got to be friends through the business.

Walter was just one character in a cast of thousands that created the larger storybook of our company. The people truly are as interesting as their stuff, sometimes more so. I believe this is the primary reason my father gravitated towards the auction business because for him, his passion was the people first, the stuff second. This was the guiding principle that would set Moran’s apart from the competition, and that is how he built our business.

His passing comes as not as a surprise to those close to him — as does the void that his death has left in the community — like a large oak tree that has fallen in the neighborhood and people stare at in disbelief that it is no more.

As I process my father’s death, it helps me to focus on the vitality of his life and the times we shared together. Specifically, the legacy he left behind with the auction company and the friends he made along the way in 50 years of doing what he loved and all the success that comes from that. If you are reading this e-mail, it means that you have participated with our company in some way, large or small, and are part of our story. Thank you.

— Jeff Moran

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster
Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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