Thomas Moran knew from his first sight of the Green River (also called the Upper Colorado) that he had found an ideal theme for the East Coast art market. The town of Green River was a rowdy settlement tucked into a valley between sandstone bluffs. It had popped up overnight as the Union Pacific Railroad stretched across the continent. By 1882 the West was largely settled, but banks and laundry houses did not offer a romantic scene, so Moran painted the valley as he imagined it looked when Indians rode there. Such vividly colored western scenes proved to be a bonanza for the Union Pacific’s chief rival, the Northern Pacific Railroad. Jay Cooke, the Philadelphia financier who owned the Northern Pacific, kept Moran on retainer for several years, generating nostalgic images that helped to draw thousands of greenhorns out to the farthest stops on his railroad.
(Text courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum).