Oscar Berninghaus finally settled in Taos in 1925, after having visited the town regularly since 1899. One of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists, he established himself over the course of a productive career as one of the leading artists of the American southwest. His origins were as a commercially commissioned draftsman and illustrator, and throughout his life he stayed true to these roots, painting the expansive southwest with remarkable accuracy and with a sureness of brushstroke and line.
In the present work, a mail stagecoach drawn by six horses rumbles along a rural road, and while it is the central element in Berninghaus's composition, the vastness of the landscape governs the work. It is a painting where we can surely notice that "Berninghaus created logical paintings whose spaces were clearly defined as foreground, middleground, and distance. The scale he favored was one that placed man or animal in nature but not in a dominating position. There was a balance between his focus on the setting and on the action." (Nelson, The Legendary Artists of Taos, New York, 1980, p. 39) This balance is underlined again by the construction of the work, the zig-zag of the canyon reiterated by the wagon's path, joining action and setting with a compositional flourish.
Berninghaus's love of Taos's landscape was matched by his love of the painterly qualities of its light. "In 1913, he stated in a newspaper interview: '[Taos] is a splendid country for an artist because there are more varieties of atmosphere here than I have found in any other place.'" (as quoted in Broder, Taos: A Painter's Dream, Boston, 1980, p. 120) Berninghaus made it his custom to paint similar scenes at different times during the day, and during different seasons, becoming a master of the subtleties of the varied Taos atmosphere and light. In Overland Mail, "Berninghaus captured a softened brightness that gives a pastel tone to the landscape." (The Legendary Artists of Taos p. 41) The restrained greens of the pasture, notched with a meandering canyon of muted purple, slowly fade into to the blue-gray mountains.
For Berninghaus, the Taos Society of Artists was creating distinctly American art. He is quoted as saying "I think the colony in Taos is doing much for American art. From it I think it will come a distinctive art, something definitely American - and I do not mean that such will be the case because the American Indian and his environment are the subjects. But the canvases that come from Taos are as definitely American as anything can be." (Berninghaus as quoted by Bickerstaff in The Legendary Artists of Taos, p. 41)