In October of 1927 Maynard Dixon left his home in San Francisco to begin a four-month journey through Nevada. Starting in the remote northwestern section of Nevada's Washoe County, Dixon made his way through the high desert country reaching Las Vegas and then heading northeast approaching the Utah border. Impressed by the magnificent vistas and the supreme silence of the land, Dixon drew inspiration from the environment, producing an enormous output of over fifty paintings, including Eagle's Roost. Many of these works were exhibited immediately following this trip and it is believed that more than half were purchased at the show.
A critic for The Argus wrote the following in his review of the Nevada pictures. His remarks find expression in Dixon's Eagle's Roost:
Approaching his subject with an attitude of absolute submission to it, Maynard Dixon, who recently spent four months in Nevada, shows paintings which are direct renditions of the country visited and
seen. In these the artist has not attempted to compose, to organize, his subject matter. He has not tried to create problems for his brush, or even to express his own individuality through his work. He sat in front of his models: strangely shaped mountains adorned by green meadows, alkaline beds of pure white running in long stretches at their feet. There lay something greater than his "ego", he thought, something masterfully in design and composition, and, letting it guide him, he tried to render it as it is, not to interpret it. Fifty-one oils of mountains, desert and fertile valleys, abandoned mining camps, bit of curious cities, are here to testify to this attitude and manner. It is the work of a man who is conscious of what he is doing and who knows how to restrain his emotions, who has dignity and poise. ("In San Francisco Galleries," The Argus, December 1927, p. 77)
In Eagle's Roost, as in much of the artist's work of the 1920s, Dixon treats his subject in a simplified manner, placing emphasis on color, form and pattern within nature. Here, working from a bird's eye perspective at the top of a mountain range, Dixon depicts a group of massive boulders on top of which rest two eagles. The largest of the boulders juts vertically through the canvas over the desert mesas forming a contrast with the flat, high horizon line. The foreground area composed of the desert brush and voluminous rocks appears golden, warmed by the desert sun. In subtle constrast, the distant desert mesas are described in cool tones of blues and purples. The silence and emptiness of the desert are heightened by the quiet and peaceful landing of the two eagles.
The insistence on conveying a sense of the aura and spirit of the West distinguishes Dixon from many avant-garde artists of his day. Certainly aware of the modernist trends in painting following the Armory Show of 1913, Dixon maintained that an artist "must beware of schools, cults, isms; must learn from all and give obediance to none." (cited in L.C. Powell, "The Essential Vision," The Drawings of Maynard Dixon, San Francisco, California, 1985, p. 15) During the twenties, when Eagle's Roost was painted, Dixon was seeking a more simplified, approach to painting, a way "he could condense, simplify, indeed, empty out, his canvases in order to attain both psychological force and a conviction of spirit." (K. Starr, "Painterly Poet, Poetic Painter: The Dual Art of Maynard Dixon", San Francisco Historical Quarterly 53, no. 4 Winter, 1977/78, p. 301) This aim is clearly achieved in Maynard Dixon's Eagle's Roost.