Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Miller, Alfred Jacob

Yell of Triumph
20.5 x 31.5 cm
watercolor on paper
The Walters Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

The Indian hunters in selecting a buffalo from the herd for themselves are generally much more influenced by the luxuriant coat of hair he wears, in reference to making a robe, than tenderness of beef for roasting purposes. The party here have secured an animal whose hide will make a first class robe. Placing him on his haunches in an upright position the conquerer is mounting the animal in full war dress and in his exultation sounds the key note for a 'Yell of Triumph' in which all join.

 "and one has mounted the back of the animal to join in an Indian yell and song;- partly as a species of requiem to the Buffalo for the game quality he has exhibited, but mainly as an act of self glorification for giving the "coup de grace" to the bull. " (Miller)

Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874) was an American painter best known for his paintings concerning the northwestern United States. He was born in Baltimore, Maryland. After doing some painting in Baltimore and Washington, D.C., in 1833 he went to Europe to perfect his skills. He spent considerable time in Paris. He was admitted as an auditor to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He studied technique, color and line by copying Old Masters in the museums, as was the practice at the time.

After returning to Baltimore in 1834, he opened a small studio, which was not successful. Seeking a change, he relocated to New Orleans in 1837. There he met the Scottish adventurer William Drummond Stewart, who hired Miller to accompany 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. After returning to New Orleans later that year, Miller started working up his sketches in oils. The scenes and incidents of the hunting journey were the foundation of a series of paintings documenting aboriginal American life.