We find a wagon with cattle in the foreground, placed alongside a long, wide river which floats past at a leisurely pace. In the distance are a number of trees on the opposite bank, though no other sign of human life in this relatively wild location. Bierstadt affords the top half of the painting to the sky, perhaps slightly more than he would normally do and this adds to the feeling of this being a reduced, simpler piece. Even the sky itself is relatively plain, with none of the aggressive clouds that can be found elsewhere within his oeuvre. That said, many will approve of the lighter tones found here, with darkness only used upon the shadows of the cattle who stand close to us. One can appreciate the traditional lives of the 19th century when viewing paintings such as this, and that was one of the charms of this artist.
Bierstadt was, first and foremost, a landscape painter who would typically only use humanity as a means to provide a sense of perspective. He did however sometimes veer away from this and actually focus more intently on humans themselves, or as in this case, some of the items that they used within their daily lives. He loved to travel and so would naturally come across fellow travellers, as well as local native Indians who themselves also greatly inspired some of his paintings. For examples of that, check out the likes of Indian Encampment, Late Afternoon and Indians Spear Fishing. Nooning on the Platte, N.D. is believed to have come about after the artist joined a group heading towards the Rocky Mountains.
Nooning on the Platte, N.D. can today be found within the permanent collection of the St. Louis Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. This impressive venue hosts a great selection of art and antiquities, with the main focus being upon American and European items. They also have a good variety of periods covered too, with many items from the Northern Renaissance as well as the Expressionist era, for example. In terms of Bierstadt, as well as Nooning on the Platte, N.D., they also own several other artworks from his career including Olevano and also the delightful Surveyor’s Wagon in the Rockies. All-in-all, there is much to see and enjoy here, with most cultural tastes catered for within a permanent collection which runs into the many thousands of items.