When Stewart first awarded Miller the job of accompanying him to the Rocky Mountains, he told the painter that he wanted “a competent artist to sketch the remarkable scenery & incidents of the journey.” (Miller Notebook, ) Stewart had been west several times before, so he knew what enticements lay in store for someone with Miller’s talents and sensibilities.
Miller might be regarded as a member of the second generation Hudson River School. His response to landscape fits with that of his contemporaries, though, thanks to his studies abroad, he seemed to be more openly accepting of J.M.W. Turner’s misty atmospheres than many Americans of the period.
Miller completed at least two versions of this scene as large oval oils in the mid-1850s (CR#s 225C and 225B, see Ross, LVI) and another sizable watercolor for William Walters later in the decade. (CR# 225A) When small versions of the scene like this work were created is unknown, but probably around that time. Given the relatively muddy handling of the pigment in this small oil, it is possible that parts of it were executed by studio assistants.
Peter H. Hassrick
The Green River:
The Green River was known to the Shoshone as the “Sisk-a-dee Agie” (meaning Sage Hen River). The Spanish called it the Rio Verde which translates to “Green River.” When William Ashley first came to the Rockies, he referred to the river by its Indian name, but after meeting trappers out of New Mexico, Ashley switched his preference to using “Green River.” Six of the last eight rendezvous were held in the fertile bottomlands of this stream. Green River is a tributary of the Colorado River which empties into the Gulf of California.
Meaning of “Oregon”:
Old Oregon embraced all the territory west of the Rocky Mountains, north of California and up to Alaska, essentially everything north of the 42nd Parallel (after 1819) and west of the Continental Divide. The Columbia River was once known as the Oregon, River of the West, and for a time, the Rockies were called the Oregon Mountains. Thus, when Miller wrote of the Green River as being in Oregon, he was referencing this early definition of the boundaries of that region. In 1837, Oregon was jointly occupied by Great Britain and the United States defined by the treaty of 1818.
The origin of the name is uncertain, but "Oregon" might stem from an English army officer's proposal for an expedition to discover the Northwest Passage in 1765, in which he refers to "the River called by the Indians Ouragon." The etymological root of “Oregon” may extend to the Abenaki term “wauregan” meaning “good” or “beautiful.”
Jim Hardee & Clay Landry
For Further Reading:
Gaston, Joseph, Centennial History of Oregon
Urbanek, Mae, Wyoming Place Names
Verso LR: Green River, Oregon
Carman H. Messmore [M. Knoedler and Company, New York]; present owner by gift, 1959