Although many of Miller’s landscapes are carefully examined today for their documentary value—which mountains and stream are shown here, for example—this was not necessarily uppermost in his mind as he copied his sketches into more finished compositions. He was trained in the romantic tradition of the Hudson River School and influenced by romantics such as the British artist J.M.W. Turner, valuing the picturesque and the sublime in which the forces of nature are seen to be overwhelming the human elements in the scene. Here, in a painting for the Walters’ commission, Miller’s party—the riders at the lower left—seem almost insignificant when compared to the jagged and blasted trees, the “raging torrent,” and the vast and distant mountain peaks that seem to disappear in the distance. (Troccoli, 1990, pp. 16 – 18) Here the cataract even seems to threaten the viewer, filling the entire foreground of the picture and leaving the onlooker with an uncomfortable perspective and no place to stand.
The artist; William T. Walters, Baltimore, MD; present owner