Cultured Wednesday: Alfred Jacob Miller

Miller painted what he saw, and his firsthand works provide a window into a life and time long gone but essential to the very nature of what it is to be American.

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Alfred Jacob Miller (January 2, 1810 – June 26, 1874), American-born, was best known for his paintings of trappers and Native Americans in the fur trade of the western United States, and the paintings we chose all revolve around this theme.  He also painted portraits and genre paintings in and around his native Baltimore.

The featured image shows Miller’s painting titled “Breaking up Camp at Sunrise”, painted between 1858 and 1860.

Here is another one we find quite noteworthy:

The_Trapper's_Bride
The Trapper’s Bride, 1845

What a very interesting depiction of such a situation.  Just look at who is looking where, and at the expressions on the faces!

We also like this one a lot, more scenery than people this time, and obvious connections to the Hudson River School here:

Alfred_Jacob_Miller_-_The_Lake_Her_Lone_Bosom_Expands_to_the_Sky
The Lake Her Lone Bosom Expands to the Sky, ca. 1850

Miller was originally from Baltimore, and that is also where he died, but in between he lived in Europe for a while, and upon his return to America established himself as a painter only after he had moved to New Orleans in 1837.

There, he met a Scottish aristocrat and adventurer by name of Sir William Drummond Stewart, who hired Miller to travel with him and record his hunting journey to the Rocky Mountains.  That same year, along with representatives of the American Fur Company, they ventured as far as Fort William and Green River.  It is quite obvious where Miller got his ideas for his painting from, then, and also noteworthy that he had actually seen what he painted later on.  His scenes and incidents of the hunting journey were the foundation of a series of paintings documenting Native Americans of the United States.  After exhibiting his paintings in New Orleans, Miller traveled to Scotland in October 1840, accompanied by all his paintings, and took them to Stewart’s Murthly Castle, where a collection of his commissioned work was ultimately hung.

Here is one last painting: “Our Camp”, painted between 1858 and 1860:

Alfred_Jacob_Miller_-_Our_Camp
Our Camp, 1858–1860

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