This delicately layered watercolor depicts an aerial view of the caravan crossing the plains. Miller alternates bands of light and dark green, intermixed with blue and brown to render the prairie grass. The lighter bands show the fibrous texture of the paper and may have been rubbed or wiped by the artist to achieve the effect. Miller has also used thick areas of gum Arabic to create opaque, shiny pigment on the trees and some of the foreground horses. The gum Arabic, which probably shrank fairly soon after application, creates a craquelure across the surface of the pigment that contrasts with the thin, transparent layers of watercolor.
Miller’s sketch is cursory, including only the most general details of horses and wagons. Only Stewart stands out in his characteristic buckskin suit atop his white Arabian, Othello.
This sketch, along with at least ten others from the Stewart’s collection, is floated on what is likely the original matte. The beige sheet is inscribed with a border and title in brown ink in Miller’s hand. Despite its large size, the abraded edges and general wear, along with the faded, abbreviated title inscribed across the top, suggest this may have been begun or even completed in the field. It is the only one of this subject, perhaps because the artist thought its generalized landscape would not appeal to a broad audience.
UL: 23. UR: Prairie. – Leaving the Platte. LC on mount: View of the Prairie – Leaving the River Platte.–
The artist; Sir William Drummond Stewart, 1839; Frank Nichols, 1871; Bonamy Mansell Power; willed to Edward Power, 1900; by descent to Major G.H. Power, Great Yarmouth, England, 1966; [Edward Eberstadt and Sons for Fredrick William Beinecke]; present owner by gift