The village of Green River in Dakota Territory is served by the Pacific section in July 1868 before the famous transcontinental junction of 10 May 1869. Green River will be part of Wyoming in the later division of states.
Green River was incorporated as a city in 1868 and became a rallying point for geological and geographical expeditions starting with Powell in 1869.
Thomas Moran arrives by train to Green River in 1871 to join the Hayden expedition. The admirer of Turner is dazzled by the variety of colors: the reflection in water adds green and lavender to the yellow and orange of the cliffs. He immediately realizes a first watercolor. He does not seek realism but idealization and the result is sumptuous.
The Cliffs of Green River, Wyoming is one of the finest western landscapes and Moran painted this scenery in different sizes without changing the composition.
An oil on canvas 64 x 122 cm painted in 1878 was sold for $ 17,7M including premium by Christie's on 21 May 2008. A later version in the same technique, 51 x 76 cm painted in 1896, is estimated $ 6M for sale by the same auction house in New York on May 21, lot 7.