In referring to ?the present work, Carol Clark noted in her doctoral dissertation, “Moran varied his watercolors of the Green River from very large (up to 28 in.) to this tiny work. The artist often amused his children and friends with small watercolors which he would present after an evening of visiting. He also painting scenes in his friend’s guest books.” (Thomas Moran's Watercolors of the American West, Ph.D. dissertation, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan, 1981, p. 390) However, it has been noted that, given the present work's obvious high level of finish, Green River would not likely have been meant as a bobble for a young child, but more likely a gift for a close friend or patron who would have cherished it as a valuable keepsake.
Furthermore, the present work retains a verso inscription in the artist's hand that reads 'WTEvans,' most likely a reference to noted turn-of-the-century collector William T. Evans. Evans, an Irish immigrant, was the president of the successful dry goods import and manufacturing company, Mills & Gibbs Corporation, and a ferocious collector of American art. In the late 1800s, when European art, especially the work of Barbizon painters, was in vogue, Evans instead focused on the thriving population of contemporary artists working in and around New York City. He regularly visited studios or arranged personal visits by artists to his home in Montclair, New Jersey, the Wentworth Manor that he purchased from George Inness, Jr. At one time Evans had amassed a collection of over 350 works of art, including works by Eanger Irving Couse, Gilbert Gaul and A. Phimister Proctor. In Evans’ correspondence, now housed at the Archives of American Art, are letters from the most notable of American artists, including Ralph Blakelock, George de Forest Brush, Childe Hassam, Winslow Homer, Worthington Whittredge and Moran himself.
Evans’ position as a major patron of American artists was further secured by his roles as a member of the National Arts Club, the Salmagundi Club, the Union League and as chairman of the Arts Committee at the Lotus Club. One of the collector’s most significant contributions to the appreciation of American art at the time actually came in the form of two major dispersals of his collection, which proved to establish American art as a respected collecting category. Following the market-establishing sale of the collection of Thomas B. Clarke, large portions of the Evans collection were offered in single-owner sales in 1900 and 1913. These sales served to attract attention and collectors to not only the merits of American art, but to its investment potential.
His contributions to the American art world were not, however, limited to the support of individual artists or to the market. During the first few decades of the 20th century, Evans was responsible for contributing significantly to the creation of the National Gallery of Art through his gift of 123 paintings and to the establishment of the Montclair Art Museum, while also making meaningful contributions to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Detroit Museum of Art. These gifts included such masterpieces as Ralph Blakelock’s Moonlight (1886-1895, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) George de Forest Brush’s The Moose Chase (1888, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.), Mary Cassatt’s The Caress (1902, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.), Winslow Homer’s A Visit from the Old Mistress (1876, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.), and Frederic Remington’s Fired On (1907, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.), to name a few.
At various points Evans’ collection also included at least three paintings by Moran, most notably A Dream of the Orient, which he purchased directly from the artist in 1885, two years before the present work was completed. Thus, in making a gift for a notable patron such as William T. Evans, perhaps following a studio visit or as a thank you for his recent purchase, Moran would surely have made every effort to deliver a finished product of which he could be proud.