This may be the original study for Miller’s famous pictorial tale of man’s vulnerability in the face of nature’s vastness on the western plains. It is thought that Miller did not begin to explore this theme until after 1850 (Strong, 1998, 46 -- 47) and the accomplished draftsmanship and mature style of this drawing would bear that out. In this preliminary sketch, the artist focused on the pose and gesture of the rider, leaving the open backdrop of prairie and clouds rather vaguely treated.
The rider raises his right hand to shelter his eyes as he scans the distance in the vain hope of spying a fellow hunter. He holds the reins in his left hand and cradles a sheathed rifle across his lap. A halter rope is wrapped around the horse’s neck and his broad brimmed hat is adorned by a plume, features that appear in less than half of the eight known versions of the finished work. Odd inconsistencies are found in this sketch, especially regarding the direction of the wind. The grass seems to be nodding to the right while the man’s blanket and the horse’s mane and tail are moved decidedly to the left. The fringe on the end of the rifle case, though, hangs down as if unaffected by any breeze.
Peter H. Hassrick
LR: Lost Green Horn. Verso: Carrie C. Miller 3 Oklahoma Terrace Annapolis Maryland
The artist; Carrie C. Miller, Annapolis, MD; Porter Collection; present owner