Alfred Jacob Miller was the first artist to sketch Devil’s Gate, a vertical rock formation and four-hundred-foot canyon cut by the Sweetwater River in Wyoming. Although travelers through the region did not pass through the canyon, the sighting of Devil’s Gate was a major landmark for those on the Oregon Trail.
This iteration of Devil’s Gate throws out the wide-angled, sweeping, romantic landscape of CR# 165 for a more closely-cropped and dramatic vertical rendering of the formation itself. Miller also uses the filtration of light through the clouds to draw attention to the architectural dimensions of the rock; these raking strokes of gouache cut diagonally across the image to lift our eyes up through the work, connecting our gaze from the sky to the water below. The smattering of birds circling above provides a contrast in perspective with the deer wading below, again emphasizing the height and distance of the landmark.
Emily C. Wilson