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The Cliffs of Green River is an oil on canvas painting created in the year 1874 by Thomas Moran. Moran was a talented American painter and exemplar of the ‘Rocky Mountain School’ of the late 19th century. He was also part of the Environmental Romanticism Movement.
This piece of artwork is currently part of the Amon Carter Museum of American Art collection in Fort Worth, Texas.
Moran’s Cliffs of Green River painting is a classic scene of the American West landscape. The beautiful angular bluffs and cliffs are the centre of attention. In the background, Moran uniquely combines the bright colours from his colour palette to depict the late afternoon sunlight reflection on the vast landscape. The blue sky, white clouds, and the golden halo shone from the setting sun give a vibrant look to this magnificent piece of artwork.
At the centre of the painting, a river (The Green River located in Wyoming) is winding through at the feet of the eroded cliffs. Also, a small band of Native Americans travelling together are mounted on their exotic horses. The towering bluffs make the humans appear like dwarfs. Unfortunately, we can only get a glimpse of their backs as they stroll into the horizon. One of the Indians has distanced himself from the group. He has cast out his fishing rod into the river as he awaits a catch for his dinner.
In the foreground, the trees and cliffs form a reflection on the surface of the water. Also, dark colours have been used to illustrate the few scrubs and vegetation in the painting.
In this painting, Thomas Moran repressed any proof of railroad and towns while emphasising the beauty of the Green River subsidiary cliffs. The unique representation of the craggy and strange landscape has drawn the American imagination and has increasingly linked the national identity to the native desert of its western territories.
Other related Paintings
The Cliffs of Green River is among a series of paintings made by Thomas Moran of the Green River landscape in Wyoming. ‘The Green River Cliffs, Wyoming’ and ‘The Green River, Wyoming’ are just two examples of this series.
There are approximately 40 or more depictions of the bluffs. Moran repeatedly painted this landscape, showing the scene under different conditions. And no two Green River paintings were exactly alike. However, the looming cliffs and bluffs are the only constant. The Cliffs of Green River painting is very characteristic of his work as well as other painters in the ‘Rocky Mountain School’.