Alfred Jacob Miller


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference


Painter. Known chiefly for early scenes of the West, he also painted portraits, historical narratives, and occasional genre subjects. Born in Baltimore, he probably studied for a time with Thomas Sully in Philadelphia before leaving in 1833 for Europe. There he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, admired the work of Eugène Delacroix, and traveled through Italy to Rome. When he returned to Baltimore late in 1834, he wished to become a history painter, but found himself, as most artists with such ambitions then did, for the most part restricted to portraits. Two years later, he relocated to New Orleans, where he met Captain William Drummond Stewart, a wandering Scottish aristocrat with a taste for big game. At Stewart's invitation, Miller joined an expedition of several months, leaving in May 1837, for what is now Wyoming. On this trip, he became the first American artist to travel along the Oregon Trail, to view the Rocky Mountains, and to record the fur trade. He made about two hundred watercolors of landscape, Indians, settlers, and mountain men. Unlike George Catlin and Karl Bodmer, who preceded him into the West by a few years, Miller was less interested in scientific and ethnographic information than in the purely visual spectacle of western life. Although he often romanticized his subjects, at their best Miller's detailed but atmospheric scenes evoke the drama of open spaces, the charm of secluded spots, and the natural interplay between the region and its human inhabitants. Following his return to New Orleans, he created oils based on the watercolors, which he used as source material for the rest of his life. In 1838 he moved back to Baltimore and two years later traveled to Great Britain. There he produced enormous western scenes for Stewart, fulfilled commissions for others in his patron's circle, and visited London. He returned permanently to Baltimore in 1842 to resume his portrait career while also producing additional western scenes, as well as other subjects.

Subjects: Art.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.