The scene in front of us here features a fairly open river which sweeps from the bottom right of the composition around to the top left. There is a collection of trees grouped together on both banks and these merge together to form large areas of dark green. The lighting on this piece is relatively subdued, with just a brightness coming from the red tones of the lower half of the sky. The upper half of the sky is fairly blue, with any clouds forming just below. Some of the light from above brightens up parts of the water below, and this ensures that there is some variety in tone and shade across the artwork. On the Platte River is not one of the artist's most famous paintings but is still well worthy of your interest and it also provides another episode on the artist's work in this region. He produced several hundred paintings across his career, meaning it is now fairly well spread across public collections all across the country, with some still remaining in private collections too.
Although there were several different paintings with a similar name, we do know that this artwork actually carried the title On the Platte River, Nebraska on the back, as signed by the artist himself. He also produced several simple sketches of parts of the painting on the back as well, helping us to understand more about his working processes. The artwork is not currently listed as being on view, making it hard to learn much more about the piece but visitors to the museum should be able to find a number of other artworks to interest them. Efforts in recent years have been made to better collate the full output of this prolific artist but it has proven a challenge because of the large amount of work that he completed, as well as how many items have since been dispersed right across the country, with some even making it abroad.
More about Platte River, Nebraska
This famous river is actually over 300 miles long and leads into the Missouri River, which in turn is a tributary of the Mississippi River. A great number of American painters have incorporated scenes of it within their work, both before the time of Bierstadt and then many more after. Some have also concentrated on specific creatures to be found here, such as herons and eagles, which have also helped to bring more tourism to the area once people become aware of the wildlife to be found here. Whilst On the Platte River, Nebraska may not be the artist's most famous artwork, it still holds a significance to his career and reminds us of the specific beauty of this region of the US.