In this view of the North Platte River, Miller dedicates roughly two thirds of his composition to the sky. Providing such breadth to this airy expanse invokes a feeling of boundlessness. Miller’s pooling colors of blue and purple unite the painting, as water melds into mountain, which melds into sky. And his round, gestural landforms provide an easy, unrestrictive setting for the viewer’s magisterial gaze.
The foreground of figures, encompassing both those at rest and those on the move, holds in balance the viewer’s imaginative expectations for both forward conquest and leisurely settlement. The Natives, on horseback, wade and enjoy the fruits of the landscape, and are gently passed by, as the distant white dots of the caravan of trappers and traders pursues “the even tenor of its way” (Ross, 154) onward through the mountains.
Emily C. Wilson