Alfred Jacob Miller

January 2, 1810 - June 26, 1874

Miller, Alfred Jacob, artist (Jan. 2, 1810-June 26, 1874). Born at Baltimore, Maryland, he studied art with Thomas Sully and went abroad, continuing his education in 1833-1834 at the College of Fine Arts, Paris, visited Rome and Florence, Italy, and returned to the United States to establish a studio at Baltimore in late 1834. By 1837 he was settled at New Orleans, attempting to make a living through portraiture. Miller met the British traveler William Drummond Stewart at New Orleans, the Scottish sportsman retaining Miller as artist to accompany his party that summer across the Plains to a Mountain Man rendezvous on the Green River in the present Wyoming and to "sketch the remarkable scenery & incidents" to be encountered. The Stewart party joined an American Fur Company brigade, leaving Independence, Missouri, in late spring, reaching Fort William (Laramie) within five weeks and continuing on to the rendezvous, Miller becoming so far as is known the only artist to attend such a singular fur business fair. He made hundreds of sketches and extensive notes to enable him to produce finished pictures upon his return to his studio. Miller may have accompanied a more brief trip to the mountains with Stewart in 1838, these two journeys being his only personal visitations to the Rockies though from them emerged his life's work. He forsake New Orleans to return to Baltimore where he opened a studio one again. Here Miller produced many pictures, oils and water colors, based upon his western experiences; in 1840 he went to Scotland, visited Stewart's Murthly Castle and painted a number of works for his patron. Miller returned to Baltimore after two years and continued to produce finished works from his western sketches and memories. The artist was virtually ignored by contemporary critics, but interest in his work revived as historians came to appreciate its unique quality and value as a testimony, virtually the only one, to an interesting and important phase of American history. Collections of Miller's work are held by the Stark Museum of Art, Orange, Texas; the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore; the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha; and the Thomas Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, at Tulsa, Oklahoma. A manuscript annotating 166 of his western studies is believed to have been compiled by Miller himself and is held by the library of the Gilcrease Institute. Miller died at Baltimore.

Marvin C. Ross, The West of Alfred Jacob Miller. Norman, Univ. of Okla. Press, 1951; Bernard DeVoto, Across the Wide Missouri. Boston, Houghton Mifflin co., 1947.