Miller’s inferior mirage of a prairie lake, hovering at the horizon of this work, borrows from the orientalist tradition. The icy, jewel-toned palette and hazy atmosphere, similar to that of J.M.W. Turner’s Pyramids at Gizeh, ca. 1832, after Sir Charles Barry, magnify the feeling of distance and create a sense of spatial distortion, not unlike the experience of marching toward a mirage. This blending of sky and land creates an oceanic vista on paper, breathing new life into the image of a sea of grass and prairie. Miller had studied works by the English contemporary, Turner, and had “learned much about the production of a moody atmosphere…that realistic detail was lost in the haze but a greater realism achieved through the full play of the observer’s imagination” (Hunter, 2). This scene depicts the landscape east of Fort Laramie; the low hills that stretch across the horizon mark the Coasts of the Nebraska (DeVoto, Plate IV).
Emily C. Wilson