The Sweetwater River was named thus after a mule carrying packs of sugar from an earlier trapping expedition fell into the water. (DeVoto, 53) Miller and company did not pass through the Devil’s Gate on their way to the rendezvous, but its sighting was a welcome landmark on their journey.
The washed red tones of this work, whose pigments bounce off the rock ledges, ground, and calm waters, recreate the low light effect of predusk and the setting sun. Miller paints the scene as a sanctuaried space, open, full of light and seemingly buttressed from the outside world. A small encampment of teepees and idling Native figures dot the foreground; one figure pulls in water from the river, others perhaps fish on the rocks, while the rest peaceably stand along the banks. This romantic gateway to the west dissolves the threat of tensions or hardship that made up the reality of western travel, and its artistic gloss served to reinforce the stark beauty of the landscape and only the most welcome memories of travel.
Emily C. Wilson
LR: AJM. On mount: Devil’s Gate./on the Sweet Water
The artist; [Edward Eberstadt and Sons, New York, NY]; H.J. Lutcher Stark, Orange, TX, 1959; present owner: Nelda C. and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation, Orange, Texas, by bequest, 1965, accessioned to the Stark Museum of Art, 1978