Curious Formations of Earth near the Platte shows Court House Rock in the foreground, with the smaller Jail Rock in the distance. These sandstone formations, located in western Nebraska along the Oregon Trail, were first discovered in 1812 and quickly became landmarks for travelers along the trail. Standing more than two hundred feet above the open plain, Court House Rock and Jail Rock were visible to travelers for several days of their journey.
Miller’s sketch is too cleanly conceived and executed to have been painted in the field. The edges are neatly trimmed, the surface shows no visible wear, and there is no evidence of the artist re-working his composition. Miller renders the Indian riders in the foreground with fine pen and ink lines and sophisticated hues of copper, blue, and mustard, while he leaves the eponymous rocks lightly sketched and bathed in transparent, neutral washes. This sketch shows no evidence of gouache or gum Arabic to thicken the paint. Rather, Miller fully exploits the characteristics of the watercolor medium. With its elegant draughtsmanship and fresh colors, this is surely one of Miller’s finest efforts.
UL: 24. LC on mount: Curious Formation of Earth near the Platte River
The artist; Sir William Drummond Stewart, 1839; Frank Nichols Stewart, 1871; Bonamy Mansell Power; willed to Edward Power, 1900; by descent to Major G.H. Power, Great Yarmouth, England, 1966; [Edward Eberstadt and Sons for Fredrick William Beinecke]; present owner